Where’s the Sandman When You Really Need Him – “Tales of the Momside”

girl not sleeping

A purple glow emanates from the diffuser in the corner of  the room.  The scent of lavender is everywhere.  Low calming music plays on an iPad on the bedside table.  The lights are dimmed and the room is cozy.  If she didn’t know better she would swear that she was at the spa.  But she wasn’t.  She was in her daughter’s bedroom at 9:00 at night and she was desperately trying to get her to go to sleep.

Her eight year old daughter was wide awake and insisting that she could NOT go to sleep.  Her legs were thrashing about under the  covers and her little hands were balled into fists.  A child who was typically rational and easy going had, for the past week, turned into an irrational, agitated, almost incoherent, nightmare.  Ironic that nightmares happen when you are asleep.  Which her daughter was NOT.

“I can’t go to sleep.”

“But you haven’t even tried.” She pleads.

“But I just don’t trust myself.  What if I don’t get to sleep?”

“Sweetie you are eight years old.  Every night for eight years you have gone to bed and gone to sleep.  There’s no reason why tonight will be any different.”

“But……”

“But what?”

“But…….”

“Yes?”

“But I don’t trust myself.”

“Yes, you’ve said that.”

“But….”

“Honey, you wont be able to get to sleep if you don’t try.  Just lie still, close your eyes, take a few deep breathes and try to relax.  If you still can’t get to sleep after, say, ten minutes then come and get me and I will tuck you in again okay?”

She starts to get up from the spot on the floor that she has occupied for the past half an hour.  If she can just get out of the room maybe her daughter would……

“But…..I don’t trust myself to get to sleep.”

Damn.  So close.

It’s all she can do to not scream.  She is trying really hard to be patient.

“Count to ten.” She tells herself.  “Or maybe one hundred.”

She had spent the last few days researching sleep disruption in children and one of the most important things, they said, was not to get angry and make the child think that what they were doing was bad behavior.  In theory this made total sense, but her sweet little sunshine was still repeating the same maddening phrase over and over again and it was hard not to let that annoyance creep into your voice.  Hell it was hard not to scream at her.

Just shut up and go to sleep

“Maybe she’s not tired?” She thought.

“No, she’s had a busy day and it’s an hour past her regular bed time.  She should be tired.  She’s done this every night this week.”

“You know what sweetie?  I’m tired.”  She stretched and yawned in the hopes that her daughter would follow her example.  The truth was that the lavender oil, soft music and low lights were making her sleepy.  Was her daughter immune to this stuff?

“Hey, I’ve got a great idea.  We will both get into our  beds and see who can get to sleep first.”  Good lord why has she not thought of this before?  It was genius.

“But mommy what if you get to sleep before me?  Then I’ll be awake all by myself?”  She had started to cry again. Damn.

Fearing that she might just loose her cool she gets up, kisses the little girl on the head and says.

“Good night sweetie.  I love you.”  Then leaves the room and walks down the hall to her own room.

“Mommy?  Mommy.  Mommy!  MOMMY,”  then silence.  Could that be it.  She held her breathe and waited.  She lay down on her bed and closed her eyes.  Just as sleep start to creep into her she feels her.  Close.  Beside the bed.

“Mommy, I can’t sleep.”

From this point things will go one of two ways….

 

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Divorce – Good, Bad or Ugly?

I’ve been through a divorce. Many of my friends have been through divorces. In fact, when I thought about it, I realized that quite a lot of my friends are divorced. Thirty five in fact. Some recently, some many years ago. “It’s an epidemic” one friend said. As all relationships are different, so are all divorces. So what makes one divorce good and easy and the other stressful and horrific? Or are they all just bad? Are divorces good, bad or ugly?

I left my ex-husband 17 years ago when our son was 3 months old. Mine fell into the “stressful and horrific” category. I was hurt after discovering that a past friend and co-worker was involved with my husband. When I think back, what I most remember was the overwhelming desire to broadcast to the world (preferably by a large, well lit billboard) that it was not my fault. For some reason it seemed really important to me. Was that normal? What is normal in a divorce? With so many questions running around in my head I felt the need to write.

I started by asking my thirty five friends to tell me what were the worst and the best things that happened during or as a result of divorce? The feedback was so interesting and passionate. Obviously this is something that gives rise to a fair amount of emotion. It’s not a simple question. There is so much more to it and clearly the women I know aren’t shy about giving me their opinions on how things went down.

For one friend the worst part was that her kids have been so affected by what had happened and they really had nothing to do with it. “They didn’t ask for this to happen”. They weren’t responsible yet they have to deal with the fall out. They are collateral damage so to speak. I think that is something that we would all agree on. Missing the kids was a big downside for a lot of people. Those long lonely weekends spent counting the hours until they came home from their dad’s. In hind site, it was a blessing that my son was so young when my divorce happened. By the time he was old enough to sort of understand what was going on, most of the bad behavior (not on my part of course) was over. Don’t get me wrong, we still don’t see eye to eye, but at least there are less issues to deal with than there were when he was little.

For those of us who have older kids graduating from high school or in university, I got the feeling that there was a huge sense of accomplishment. I think maybe divorced parents need to work a little harder in that department. Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m not saying that we are better parents than people who are still married. I’m just saying that we have more hoops to jump through in the parenting department. It can be hard enough to parent a teen within a solid marriage but having to do it with somebody you may not trust, respect or even like, can be a major challenge. To come through it with well adjusted kids is a major coup.

Some found that a year or two down the road they are better friends and closer to their exes than they ever were. This is not the norm I discovered. It is quite rare and, in of some circles, even frowned upon. Particularly if there was some sort of infidelity involved. That’s a whole different animal from just growing apart. Yet for some that’s really how things have worked out. “We’ve made mistakes, we’ve survived, we’ve moved on and we’ve discovered happiness.” Are they the lucky ones? One friend is even in the process of getting back together with her ex. Can you go back? I guess she’ll find out.

More often than not there is animosity, distrust and well, dislike. What’s odd, to me, is that even with these feeling raging inside us, our exes are still able to incite very strong reactions. Some might even say passionate. After a disagreement with her ex, one friend had a particularly strong reaction. “I got home and I stormed around the house and cried and yelled and when it was all over I was okay.” (Come on, we all did it at some point). We’ve yelled, sworn, cursed the day we ever walked down the aisle (in my defense I was foggy from cold medicine and Tylenol). You would think that we would know that it shouldn’t get to us. At some point you loved that person and perhaps it takes a while for the strength of those feeling to go away even if those feelings are anger.

I find it really funny that by far the best thing for most divorced women was that they now get to cook whatever they want. Or better yet, not cook at all. They felt free and independent. Able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. (Midnight McDonalds run anyone). Don’t get me wrong, these women were not in relationships that were oppressive. These are strong, capable women. “Neither of us knew how stressed we both were until he left. It was a huge relief.” Perhaps we were working so hard on trying to make the marriage right, that when we finally gave in, the freedom was a sweet release.

As an old friend and I were catching up over a couple of large glasses of wine in a noisy restaurant, I realized how deeply she felt her divorce. “I felt a huge sense of failure”. And she wasn’t alone. Why is it that even though our actions had not directly caused the split (and by this I mean that we weren’t the ones that slept with our secretaries) we still felt immense failure. Even marriages that ended simply because they grew apart, incited feelings of failure. Of course it doesn’t help when people’s first reaction is “I’m sorry”. We are so programmed to believe that when we marry, we have to do everything in our powers to make it work. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t really worthless and a bad wife, my ex-husband was just an asshole. Go figure.

Without question every friend I spoke to said that the best thing to come out of the divorce was the huge personal growth they experienced at the end of the day. Would they have felt this way if they hadn’t gone through a divorce? Hard to say. I know lots of emotionally evolved women who are happily married. I know this; the end of a marriage forces you to look not only at your relationship, but at yourself. You are on your own in the big wide world. Therapy, friends, family and wine were all cited as coping mechanisms in the first year. And while you may feel lonely at times, as one friend pointed out, you make it through. Sometimes it happens quickly and other times it takes years, but we’ve all made it and are, dare I say, better off?

As all people are different, so are all divorces. I’ve learnt that there are some common threads but, for the most part, we have all dealt with the end of a marriage in our own unique way. I for one, have learnt that nobody can make you happy but yourself. Others have discovered that they can love again. All have found a strength within them that they maybe didn’t know was there. Today I find happiness in the fact that I have been happily married to an amazing man for 13 years. They’re good, they’re bad and yes, they are ugly, but divorces happen. It’s what you do with them that can be The Best Thing in Your Life.

Friends

friends hugging

You know those cheesy posts on Facebook about how you know you have a true friend when you don’t have to talk to them every week, or even every month, yet you still love them? Every time I see one of them I automatically think of Tani. Not because she’s a Facebook over user, but because she’s one of those friends that I talk to maybe once or twice a year but still consider one of my closest friends. We are so different in so many ways but somehow after 35 years we are still close.

We met in grade 9 at an all girls school on the West Side. You know the one. Big ivy covered walls, tartan skirts, stern head mistress. Thinking back, I don’t remember becoming friends; I just remember being friends. We both had a certain sense of adventure. When everybody else in our grade ten class was attending the Governors Ball to be presented to society, we were scoring off sales at a bar on Broadway and going to a party at Wreck Beach with two seniors from Point Grey. Okay, so maybe that was more irresponsible than adventurous, but you get the picture.

I grew up in West Van with very strict British parents. Tani grew up on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in a family that regularly threw roaring jazz parties. My parents drank sherry by the fire and Tani’s parents drank martinis at the Timber Club in the Hotel Vancouver. When we were all wearing white gowns to our grad dance (private school tradition) Tani had the guts to wear a sapphire blue off the shoulders gown. (I’ve always admired her for that). She’s happy to stand out in a crowd whereas I tend to try and blend in. Also, Tani is incredibly smart and always did really well in school. I struggled in high school and pretty much gave up on university after one year.

me and tani

We’ve had some amazing times together. The trip to Fiji with Tani and her parents is still one the fondest memories I have. Long weekend trips up to Winter Harbour to discuss philosophy with her step brothers. Some creative and champagne fueled Halloween parties at her townhouse. Her wedding to Bill. Although, I still haven’t completely forgiven her for making four pregnant women wait to get to the buffet.

We’ve seen each other through some not so great times too. Lost pregnancies, failed marriages, (okay maybe that was just me) and lapses in judgement (yes, that was me again). Tani was my maid of honor the first time I got married and three years later saw me through an ugly divorce. I wouldn’t have blamed her for saying “I told you so”, but she never did. And then there was the time that we both got called to the head mistresses office after a weekend party in Langley. Sitting on that bench outside her office is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody. How she found out what we were up to is still a mystery.

We were roommates in university for a year. Didn’t go well. I wanted to go to bed early and she liked to stay up late playing cards. She liked the apartment to be clean and I would rather go to an aerobics class than clean the bathroom. (Hey, it was the ’80s). We didn’t talk for a long time after that. She moved back East and I went to live in Banff. One night I had a dream about her and the next day felt the need to call her. No, I do not believe in it being a “sign”. I don’t really buy that stuff. Anyways, turned out that she had just moved back to Vancouver and we reconnected.

tani and me in victoria

Over the years we have seen each other less and less. We live in the same city but have totally different schedules and live on completely different sides of the city. She travels a lot for work and I have a young daughter and a husband who travels as well. We have different friends and different interests. Yet somehow we manage to come together once in a while and it’s as if no time has passed. The difference is that now we share stories about raising our own teens. May they never do half of the things that we did.

When I told Tani that I was writing a piece about us, I asked her if she wanted to read it before I published it. “No, I trust you.” And there it was. Trust. Trust, that no matter how bad we screw up, no matter how many times we forgot to call back and no matter how many times we cancel plans, we would be there for each other.  How’s that for cheesy?  Love you my friend. Have an amazing time in Italy.  You totally deserve it!

In Response to “Surviving Seventeen:

After sending my son an e mail of my post “Surviving Seventeen” I got a text saying “I like it. I’m writing a response”. Here is that response.

There is no cheat sheet, no universal way to understand a teenager and there is definitely no grand plan. The world is a scary place, as all you adults can agree ( if you remember ). It’s not easy facing everything for the first time. I do enjoy playing video games. It’s were I go to get away from everything I cant put out in the real world. Its funny because no one that I have to explain it to understands.

Having drive is a problem for me as it is for most teenagers. I have told my mom this. My mind works for instant gratification. If I get a good feeling out of it now I’m going to take that over something that will make me feel good months or years down the road. With this in mind, college, and a lot of planning, is a struggle because I cant see the end of the tunnel at all and when nothing comes from it, my brain puts it on the back burner. I do, however, want to thank my mother for pushing me to get stuff done and I know that she only wants the best for me. It’s the teenager inside me that thinks it’s nagging but I know it’s not.

Another thing is, when you ask your son or daughter what they want to do and they say ” I don’t know” you probably accept that as they just don’t care. The truth is we just don’t know. We don’t have any experience with anything like this and a lot of people just expect us to know exactly what we want to do with the next 60 some years for our life. We are, in all honesty, scared. We are scared to leave the people and places we know behind and find “our path” that makes us happy and makes enough money. A lot of us will only get the latter of the two. We don’t want to flip burgers or pack grocery bags for the rest of our lives but we are scared we will and the weight that is put on us to not do that just adds to that feeling. Even when parent say “We don’t care what you do, we just want you to be happy” we know that’s a lie. Yes, you may mean to say it but deep down we know you want use to be that lawyer or doctor or business person. The last thing we want to do is let our parents down. I’ve kept things from my parents (I later told them) that I thought would make them disappointed. At the time it felt a lot better to lie to them then let them know I had failed.

The way I see it friend, girlfriend and boyfriend all finish with “end” but family doesn’t. Your kids NEED your help. They may never ask for it and yell at you if you give it to them sometimes, but they do appreciate it so always be there for them because parents are the one thing that we can always count on.

I’ve now decided my son should be a writer.