Monday, 28 October 2013

The day I realized...I have become my mother

You remember them from when you were a kid. Those phrases you heard, sometimes ad nauseam, whenever you and/or your siblings were acting up. They haunt your memory, ring in your ears even when you're on your own, but somehow they feel comforting and familiar. "Stop right now or you can go to your room"..."Don't you talk back to me"..."Why can't you two get along for more than two seconds"..."The both of you..." If you have children, particularly children who have entered the stage of life where siblings bicker with each other non-stop (basically any time after age four), I'm positive at least one of those lovely sentences has escaped your mouth. I am not ashamed to admit that I have used all of the above and then some more than once with my children. But it was that last one, spoken unwittingly just a week ago, that made me realize that it has officially happened. After years of eye rolling, back talking and outright ignoring, I have become my mother.

I guess I always knew this day would come. In fact, there have been times over the last seven years when I know I have said or done things I recall my own mother doing when I was a child, but I don't think I had fully accepted it until now. Maybe I was delusional, insisting that I would be different. Now that it has happened, though, I can say without hesitation that becoming my mother was inevitable. Not because we're doomed to repeat our parents' mistakes, but because I learned from the best!

My childhood was not different than most in the 1980's. My dad worked long days while my mom stayed home with us, while intermittently working various full-time jobs. But for the most part, she was the one who cooked and cleaned for us, took care of us when we were sick, and nurtured us. Not to diminish my dad's important influence in my life, but becoming my dad is a whole other topic. It was mom who was also around to break up the arguments between me and my two siblings, deal out and enforce punishments, and make sure we appreciated the food in front of us. During my childhood, there were many times I felt my mom was the worst, but in the end, she really wasn't, and only wanted, and still wants, the best for her children.

So now we come full circle, and here I am with two kids of my own. I could never explain this to them, but as awful as they think I am at times, I'm only looking out for them. My mom taught me throughout my childhood that by not letting me have my own way, I learned to accept defeat when it came, and to work as hard as I could to achieve my dreams and desires. By allowing me the freedom to explore, she enabled a curiosity in me that has kept me wanting to learn more, even to this day. That freedom also gave me the confidence to navigate through the cities where I have lived safely and without fear. By caring for my injuries but not coddling me, she taught me to pick myself up, be strong, and not let cuts, scrapes and bruises, both internal and external, hold me back. Most importantly though, by being the mother she was and continues to be, I am the mother I am today.

Becoming our mothers is a testament to the women that raised us, fed us, taught us right from wrong, and eventually set us free to become the women we are meant to be. Sure, every generation learns from the previous one and tries to improve on what we remember from our youth, but it's really just adapting on the principles that were instilled in us by the people that brought us into this world, who were patient, thoughtful and willing to help make us the best we could be. So while I will still joke to my husband every time I say something to my kids and hear my mother speaking those same words back at me, in that humour I will find comfort. I hope, too, that my own children will take my sometime harsh phrases and lessons and one day realize when they have kids of their own, that mom wasn't so bad after all. She just loved me enough make sure I grew up strong, confident, mindful and more than a little adventurous.
From left to right: Dad, Me, Mom and Coralie

Monday, 21 October 2013

Staying Sane Amongst the Insanity

Seven years ago when my husband and I welcomed our first beautiful child into the world, life was instantly changed. We were faced immediately with all new challenges, strained and exhausted, and struggling to maintain composure as we stumbled through the first few days, weeks and months of parenting. When we decided to have children, we knew things would be different and we would have to change our lifestyle a bit. We did, however, make some important promises to ourselves in order to maintain some sanity while our lives as we knew them turned upside down. 

Lately I have been reminded over and over about one of those important promises. Our children are precious, and it is our job to protect them. In order to keep them safe, we took a page from our parents' book. We teach them to avoid dangerous situations, chastise them when they're being deliberately unsafe, and give them the knowledge they need to travel throughout their young lives relatively unharmed. What's crucial in not losing our minds with the stress of maintaining their safety is that once they've heard all of our lessons, we let them go, free to explore, to make mistakes, and to live up to the responsibilities we've allowed them.

A comment on my last post made aware of a story by Parachute Canada suggesting that children under the age of ten should not ride on the road because they don't have the mental awareness and capacity to ride amongst cars. As you are likely well aware, we ride on the road with our children all the time. We are acutely aware of dangers when riding on the road, which is why we stick to quieter streets and dedicated cycle tracks. That being said, how on earth will our children ever learn to look after themselves when they enter their independent teen years if we don't provide them with the skills they need while they are still young and willing to learn from their parents? Each trip we take with our children, whether riding bikes, walking or taking transit is an opportunity for us to make our children mindful of the obstacles they'll face when we are no longer at their side.

Photo courtesy of Mike Hollingshead
Just this past week was an example of how if I just let go and give a bit of freedom and trust, my children will be fine. Our daughter, for the second year, took part in her school's Cross Country team. Her participation meant two meets at John Hendry Park, and a race route that took her around the full length of Trout Lake and out of my sight. Instead of being worried about what may happen as some parents around me were, I knew my daughter was running with countless other children, with one focus, get to the finish line. She would not be stopping to talk to strangers along the way, and with the park being well populated with other people in the neighbourhood. I knew if she hurt herself, there would be plenty of kind people willing to lend a hand and that she would be ok. As I expected, she arrived red faced and beaming after both races, and knew to look for me as soon as she received her ribbon.

Whether being a spectator at my daughter's race, or travelling with my children throughout the city, I could expend so much mental energy worrying and stressing about their well being. With everything children get up to, I would genuinely go insane if I spent all my time thinking about the possible outcomes. Instead, I find it much healthier to accept that since July 2006, my husband and I have made it a point to teach our kids to be responsible. As a result, we trust them to make decisions that aren't going to put them in harm's way. It is inevitable that they will still make mistakes, but by focusing on the positives instead of the "what ifs", we get to enjoy every moment just a bit more. I will freely admit you need to be slightly unhinged to give up your own freedom to have children, willingly exposing yourself to sleepless nights, fighting siblings, and strained pocketbooks. So I will remain happily armed with the confidence that my kids have enough common sense to be smart and safe. Outside of that, there's always a nice glass of red wine to calm the nerves and keep me sane enough to deal with what lies ahead. After all, we're just six short years away from... the teen years!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Every cloud....

Quite saddened to know these days are over
About a week and a half ago the dynamic of the Velo Family was severely disrupted. Upon picking up our youngest from daycare, I discovered that, for the second time, a stranger had stolen our bike trailer. Multiple thoughts went through my head, some less PG than others, but aside from the frustration and anger came a sadness. For many cycling families, this would be a blow. For us, it meant that we had lost our ability to bike commute as a family, to do our large grocery shopping by bike, and to enjoy long rides along the Seawall, something we had apparently taken for granted and missed almost immediately. 

The most immediate impact was felt by husband and son, who had come to rely on our trailer for their morning routine. Without the trailer, Chris would be forced to walk with Etienne to his daycare about a kilometre away, before riding off to work, adding at least thirty minutes to his commute. It's pretty astounding how something as simple as a theft can completely change your lives when you rely on two wheels to get you around. However, what started out as astounding in a negative way turned into something pretty spectacular.

As you may have read previously, we have been attempting to get our son to ride on his own for over a year to no avail. My husband and I knew all along that one day, a switch would flip, and he would just get it, but it seemed to be taking forever and we were beyond frustrated. So when the trailer was stolen, and we suggested to our little man that he try riding so he can bike to school with daddy, we didn't expect much. Especially when he repeatedly said that he couldn't do it yet. But we had to try; we had no choice!

So we set up on the sidewalk, camera in hand, ready and waiting for that magic moment. After several passes, things were appearing to be as hopeless as before. You see, my husband and I knew he capable of riding on his own. In fact, he was! But for some reason, in his head, he was still too young, and would panic after just a few revolutions without daddy or mommy near by. We decided we would give it one more go, cheering him on with compliments, encouragement and praise. And then it happened! After over twelve months of trying, failing and trying again, our four and a half year old son was finally riding on two wheels all by himself! He beamed with joy and pride, and was so excited he decided the very next day he would ride to school. True to his word, he did just that. The following morning, while I sat at home nervous for my little guy, I received a text from my husband saying simply this, "'I DID IT!'"
One very happy little boy
Here we are now, just eleven days later, and the Velo Family has just returned from our first bike ride as a family all riding solo. We travelled along the 10th Avenue bikeway three kilometres from our home on Commercial Drive to enjoy some breakfast on Main Street. It's a route we all know well, but the first time Etienne would ride that distance, including some steeper inclines on the way. I'm very happy to report he made it safely there and back without any tumbles, and only had to dismount a couple of times and get a hand from daddy to make it up the hill. So, what started out as a disheartening blow to our daily routines turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining...or in our case, a little blue bike and a brave little boy!
The set is now complete!