Tag Archives: children

Serpent’s teeth and the brilliance of Shakespeare

db-0100I hated reading Shakespeare as I grew up. The language seemed difficult, the concepts dry and old. I was, of course, ignorant. And a philistine. Now I know better, and am continually gobsmacked by what Shakespeare was able to contain in his works.

I wonder who I was when I was younger – so sure of myself, so sure I knew things, terrified of being caught out yet pushing my way through, singing “Whistle a Happy Tune” and “You’ll never walk alone” to keep my chin up – but as an old friend said, it WAS up. Though I knew nothing, and inside I knew I knew nothing. I knew enough to fake it til I made it, just about. So I did.

I blame my mother. She told us we were special, and though we never really believed it, we carried it around. My adopted aunt once gave me a book which had a marvelous poem in it about “Mary-Alice”, who had great potential, and because she was so afraid of losing that potential, she kept it hidden under her bed in a very secure box and got it out now and again to look at it but never showed it to anyone.

That poem has haunted my entire life. Thanks, Aunt Shirlianne. (Love her so much, and there’s no reason she should have expected that that poem would have such an effect on me). Between my mother assuring me I was meant to do great things and my aunt inflicting overly wise poetry on me, I was and probably still am, a mess. I figure I still have to contribute – have to have an effect on the world, have to use my potential before it vanishes like Mary-Alice’s.


It’s encouraging in one way, terrifying in another. Here I am, gently losing my mind with the cognitive effects of MS, and I am flogging myself to write, to agitate, to exercise, to model healthy behaviour, blah blah blah. Add in a generous dose of Roman Catholic guilt and it’s almost unbearable in here. Wine helps. And chocolate.

Sad thing is, I seem to have visited it upon my kids, this same sense of “you have great gifts and you’d better use them to better the world or else”. It’s a lot of pressure, and I didn’t mean to make their lives the same living ratrace mentally that I spin upon, but I did.

So now they have secret lives, and are afraid to tell me their plans and are snarky at me so they don’t have to feel that I am judging them.

Which, of course, I am NOT. Funny thing about parenting. That unconditional love thing is the code.You get it through the umbilical cord, I think. So I don’t care what they do, though of course I would be sad if they got arrested or hurt somebody or sat about being unhappy and unfulfilled. But then I think they wouldn’t like that, either, so I assume we are on the same page, sort of. Maybe.

I have to guess, though, because, like those ungrateful children in Shakespeare, two out of my three wonderful offspring speak rarely to me. It hurts me, yes it does. I’m sure they have reasons to avoid me, and it’s pretty much due me as I recall I kind avoided my mother for a spell, and still argue with her though she is 24 years gone. I guess I also passed on the serpent’s tooth.

In a way, it’s good – I raised my kids to be independent, questioning individuals, and so they are. Just wish a bit that they’d be a little less questioning of me, sometimes.

Ah well, at least when we DO talk, they are interesting, witty, intelligent, and worth the wait. Perhaps you can’t have that without the tooth…


When love goes awry…

“And you know what? To protect my kids, I’d lie, too. I’d lie on a stack of Bibles.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/02/11/130211fa_fact_keefe#ixzz2K2jZqwHp

This story is about a woman who murdered all of her colleagues, supposedly over tenure at a university. And about the “accident” years earlier, where she shot her brother, killing him.

It’s a fascinating story, terrifying in its implications, sad in the lack of help for someone who could surely have used it. And worrying for the children of such a set of parents.

But the quote I selected above is the scariest of all. What’s happened here?

Back in the time of responsibility, parents were the ones who took their children to the shopkeeper and made them return what they had stolen. I remember once having done something mean to a friend and my mother MADE me go and apologize. I had to walk the mile there and back, squirming in embarrassment, upset that I had to take the blame for what had been a joint girlfriend attack. But I never bullied again. (Well, until I got into management, and then it was only incompetence that drove me).

My parents made me wear my decisions, and I think I’m better for it.

Now, I’ve covered for my kids at times, but I would never cover for such a thing. Even when they were in school and their teachers would call me to wail about how my kids weren’t doing this or that assignment, I’d tell them – so FAIL them! I’m cool with that, I said. They have to learn consequences. The teachers never did, saying that the final result on the assignment was too good for them to be able to fail them. Unacceptable. How was I supposed to hold the kids accountable when their teachers wouldn’t?

In the real world, when you f*** up, you pay. You get a ticket, you lose your job, you go broke or bankrupt, you lose a friend or a lover. I find it appalling that now people seem to think that it is totally inappropriate to subject kids to consequences, leaving them unprepared to deal with life.

ImageAnd with a flexible sense of the truth.

I adore my kids. I’d walk over burning coals to support them, even the ungrateful one who still won’t speak to me. (Well, maybe not that one. I’m fed up.) But I wouldn’t lie for them.

I know they have their faults, as do I. But I expect to be held accountable for my faults, as they should.

Would I lie if they were threatened with a jail sentence, if they committed a crime? My heart would break, but I wouldn’t. We live as a part of society, and as parts of society, we’re expected to play at least close to the rules.

I hope never to have to deal with this, and my heart goes out to any parent who has to try to understand a monstrous child. I know I blame myself for my kids’ every fault already, so I can imagine how they must feel. But surely, lying for your kid, letting them off the hook, allowing them to turn into more horrific and self-centred creatures isn’t love.

Fatwa the parrot and other post-death torments

I’m reading a totally thought-provoking mystery by Henning Mankell, called “the  Troubled Man”. In it, Wallender spends a lot of time thinking about mortality and getting older. What with that and my own sudden need for a walker to get around dependably, I’ve been revisiting the whole end of life thing. I already have wills written for end of life decisions – my sister has the right to pull the plug on me (a bit dangerous, since from all accounts, she owes me for the years of big sister torment I wreaked on her), and I did have my ex as my financial executor (changing that…).

I’ve thought of having DNR tattooed on my chest, in case anyone gets a crazy idea to resuscitate me. I used to work in a rehab hospital where I looked after the failed ressussees – brain-damaged, etc. Not my bag. Still can’t get the face of one poor man out of my head, 30 years later. He was so confused – he just looked eternally startled. I’ve planned to donate my body to science since NO ONE apparently wants any part of it for transplants, thanks to my MS – egad.  Talk about feeling unwanted.  Even my corneas are suspect. On the good side, this means I won’t end up on some medical student’s dissection table, melting gently while they comment about how short I am and how it makes it so easy to see the whole body at once. They might take my brain for MS research. Which of course leads me to think about all those 60’s horror science movies, where the brain is still ALIVE. In those upside down bell jars. Ooh.

I had a fiendish plan to offer post-death torture to my kids. (What? Doesn’t everyone?) I was going to get an African Grey Parrot and teach it to say things like: “Are you wearing clean underwear?”, “Have you flossed your teeth?” “Don’t do that!”, and “You could do better!” (my personal favourite, as I’ve heard that about every boy I’ve ever dated.) Since parrots live for about 80 years, it would certainly outlive me, and maybe even my kids. I would leave it to my least favoured child, with their inheritance tied to the health of the bird. Bird dies, money goes to parrot rescue. Bird lives, they get the cash.

Strangely, the kids were oddly attracted to this idea and thought I should name the parrot Fatwa. Of course, then it was only a theory. And I did worry about the life of the bird.  Seemed mean to treat a sentient being that way.  Besides, all that training seemed like too much work. Dora, my sweet parrotlet, bullies me, and she’s only 4 inches long. Can’t imagine what a big parrot would do to me.  I’d probably spend my last years curled in a closet, throwing crackers out through a slit in the door, begging for mercy. The parrot would end up only saying “Help!”, imitating sobbing, and then laughing like a maniac.

So, I’ve reconsidered.  After all, I like my children, most of the time. Now my fiendish plan is to leave a separate fund in my will for dispersal of my ashes. This would give each kid enough money to take my ashes to places all over the world I’d have loved to have seen and they really should. Like, say, Burma. Or Antarctica. Or Australia. Or Iceland. They could split my ashes into three piles and then each go to a place to drop them. It would be like a final gift – a trip for each of them to take.

Of course, they could just ignore my wishes, flush my ashes, and spend the money in wild partying. Maybe the parrot is a better idea after all.

HAVE you flossed your teeth today?

The joys of decrepitizing, or how to avoid pit toilets

I trotted off to the CAA today to pick up some travel books for my long-suffering sweetie (LSS), who is planning a trip with his gang of hoodlums (GOH) Picked up a Campbook for the Eastern Provinces, and two things immediately occurred to me.

First, it’s way thinner than it used to be – the whole of Eastern Canada, including Quebec and Ontario, fits within a mere 159 pages. Are campgrounds vanishing? Are they just degrading to the point where they can’t score a spot in the guide? Do people just not camp anymore? Will I eventually be expected to stay at some of these places?

And so to the second point. I glanced over the listings, and even the very “swish-iest” (as my mum would say) sound absolutely dreadful. How fun can they be when the biggest thrill they offer is “lawn games”? There seems to be a choice in quality, between:

1. places with dubious access to toilets and no showers, in swamps or deep dark bug-filled forests, and

2. places named after cartoon characters with all mod cons and 500 sites on a two acre lot, many of them “pull-through”.

I can’t help but imagine hundreds of screaming, yelling, ice-cream-sticky children racing around, many of them from the GOH. The last time I stayed at such a place I woke up to the sound and shadow of a young lout peeing against the side of our tent. It was in a place with the best aspects of types one and two, so I couldn’t fault him.  The toilets were fifty miles away across the tarmac, which was simmering in the heat. The lineups ended thirty miles away.

That was a different family and a lifetime ago, but I can’t help but flash back to endless camping trips, always in the rain, always involving way too many insects and burnt hotdogs and charcoaly marshmallows (okay, I liked the marshmallows), and usually some construction site that hadn’t been mentioned in the guidebook.  There were other parts I loved – the tranquility of the early morning before the construction started, nighttime campfires when the wood wasn’t too wet to burn and the smoke blew away from our faces instead of right into them, the closeness with the kids as they rolled their sleeping bags over my face, those marshmallows.

The kids?  They remember the marshmallows. So we figured out how to do them at home and put the gear in the shed, where the insects could camp merrily, undisturbed.

When I picked up the guides, the frazzled woman at CAA asked me, “You mean camping?  Like…in tents?” She pulled up her lips in horror.

I smiled and said, “Well, what’s a girl to do when her guy has kids?” (I didn’t mention the size of the GOH, which is considerable, not including electronic appliances that talk.)

She snorted. “Find another guy, that’s what!” The she paused, considered that perhaps that wasn’t the caring approach….”Or at least, separate holidays for a start!”

And here is where the joy of decrepitizing comes in. I’m a wee bit older than the LSS, you see, and I have a couple of health problems that get me easily out of the camping scenario.  A little whimper about walking being too hard, or the need for good rest or air conditioning, and I’m off the hook. So, instead of having to smile bravely at the hordes of children and their ice cream smiles, I can shrug and say, “oh sorry, just can’t do that…” and then go and book my escapes to inclusive “every whim catered to” resorts, or to B&B’s filled with delicious antiques that just wouldn’t survive a GOH assault, or even to a humble cottage that at least has a roof and a fully functional bathroom and a place to store food where it won’t get suspiciously warm and sweaty.

It gives me such guilty pleasure to have this out, to be able to avoid the uncomfortable beds, the bug scratchies,  and those cold walks to the toilet late at night, pushing through spiderwebs and listening for wandering skunks. Been there, done that, still have the scars on my legs.

Now I camp at coffee shops, sipping hot liquids, listening to adult chatter, watching people.  It’s good stuff for a decrepitizing old gal.