Who’s your mother?

Good Monday morning! Just a little introspection today.

As some of you may know, I moved to Canada on my own, with no blood family. Over a decade ago, I met and married a Canadian and then moved here. No other family member, but my mother, now passed, has ever been here for a visit. Now that I’m divorced, I am without context. There is no one to corroborate anything I’ve said, lived, done. No one. That’s crazy if you think about it especially when you come from a large family in a small community and you only need to give your first or last name before everyone knows everything about you. In Vancouver, there’s no one to prove anything. The only person here who knew me when I lived in Trinidad, knew my family, my parents, my brothers in this whole country is my ex-husband. Wow, right? Now, it’s good if you want to start over – no history to box you in. The flip side to that is you have no history to box you in. Sigh.

This weekend at the Caribbean picnic, an older woman introduced herself to me. I think I had seen her before, but had never spoken to her. She asked me, “Who is your mother?” For a second, it shocked me. What ran through my mind was a cascade of emotions. At first I thought, “Hey, am I in Trinidad?” Confusion. Then I thought, “Could she have known my mother?” Hope. Then came the “Of course, she doesn’t. She thinks I’m someone here’s daughter.” Clarity. What followed was the eventual “In Vancouver, I don’t come from anyone.” Acceptance.

I don’t know how long it took me to answer her, but to her question, I blurted out, “Mummy,” which in itself was emotional since I hadn’t said that word to another person in a while. Also, it dawned on me: just by saying her name, I had given myself a context. Just like that, I belonged to someone even if that someone has been gone now for over 5 years. The woman said, “I know it’s ‘Mummy’, but who is she?” The jig was up. I followed up quickly with, “Oh, you mean here? I didn’t come to Canada with family,” feigning a misunderstanding. If I had to say my mother was gone, that would have done me in for sure.

But just for that split second, I had a mother again who just wasn’t there at that time. Just like that I belonged to someone. Quickly though, my delusion fizzled and the harsh reality that I don’t belong to anyone here came to me. I didn’t have parents here to come with me to the picnic. I didn’t have a husband or a boyfriend who could be shown off or flirted with by the saucy older women. I didn’t have my brothers and their families taking over half the space of the park. It is just me and my child. Always just me or just me and my child.

Weird how one question could stir up all that emotion….

Funny, you know what I just thought about? I’m giving Kidlet the very thing that I don’t have. Even though he doesn’t have the benefit of my big family, I’m giving him context. By going out to these things, meeting people, socializing with other people from the Caribbean, I am exposing him to others and showing him to be mine. Whenever I go to any event, the people I know always ask for him if he’s not with me. When he is with me, people make it a point to talk to him and ask how he is and comment on how big he’s grown. He definitely has a context. Over the years, I’ve heard people comment at these Caribbean things about how they know so-and-so since she was a child and now she’s in university or even now she has children of her own. In ten years, when he’s not joined at my hip, Kidlet will be asked, “Who is your mother?” He’ll be able to say, “Vikera, the Trini, you know her? She’s the loud one!” Ha!

Clicking memories

When Kidlet was born, I would go to Wal-Mart almost every week to collect pictures I had printed. Now that I look back, I see how many duplicates I have and the excess of having so many pics of this small person where the only thing that was different from one picture to the next was the clothes he wore and the amount of drool running down his face. As he got older, the picture-taking slowed, the camera only being brought out for ‘real’ things: Disney on Ice or birthdays or the first day of school. I decided to be more discerning in the things to be kept in the archive. The physical documentation of my life and my child’s quickly changed from a heavily illustrated novel to a pamphlet.

Now that I have a fancy camera, I’m all about taking pictures of things. Pictures of every event I’d like to remember, whether it’s a sunset or a cloud pattern or something creative that Kidlet did. One time he made his own hockey rink from an empty box, complete with advertisements for Subway and Tim Horton’s on the side of the box. The hockey players were little men he created from pipe cleaners. Those things HAVE to be captured, and I have about a dozen pictures of it.

I’m not really sure what brought on the change to slow down in the first place. I think it felt kind of self-indulgent. I think I felt like when he’s 15, he’ll be embarrassed at how many pics there are of him around. It’s kind of overwhelming. For anyone who’s had at least one child knows how much hoopla a first child can bring. He’d view me as one of those crazy mothers who kept locks from first haircuts and of first teeth (which I HAVE kept, by the way). Then I thought to myself, “Who cares what he thinks?!”

Okay, let me qualify that. What I’ve learned over the years is that your past is VERY important to your present and your future present. It all speaks to the person you will become. Either you will spend your life trying to recreate the past or you will spend your life trying to avoid recreating the past or, more than likely, it will be a combination of the two. For him to grow up and not know his past, where he came from, who he once was, what he once knew, what he once liked, would be the greatest harm I can to do him as his mother. For him to look at himself as an adult and have no idea what brought him to that particular point in life would be a tragedy.

A friend of mine shared a picture of her mother at around the age my friend was now. It sent chills up my spine – they were almost identical. For some reason, that provided me with so much comfort, thinking that maybe when I’m 58, I’ll look in the mirror and see my mother’s face as I last saw it. It will prove that no matter where my life took me, I once belonged to someone – if only genetically. That’s what I want to give Kidlet.

I want him to be able to look back and see where he came from. I want him to understand the influences in his life. He might grow to like the outdoors and then he’ll see through pictures how many times we went out to the park and the forest. He might be a hockey goalie or be an engineer or architect and he’ll see his hockey rink and realize he was interested in hockey and was a talented engineer from a young age. I don’t want him to look back and think his life was all birthday parties. I want him to know all the little things too. I may not always be around, and I just want to make sure he knows who he is. I will not apologize for that.

When we held the Olympics here in Vancouver four years ago, I had taken him to many events around town, participating in a lot of the activities, even taking a day off work for us to see the goings on. I bought a small ‘official Winter Olympics 2010’ album and put pictures of us and our forays in it. He often looks at the pictures and pieces together that trip. Over the years, he’s forgotten some of the details and I fill in the blanks. I envision him showing his children that album in 25 years, explaining why he loves his country or use it as an example about why quality time as a family is important. I don’t know what he’d use it for, but it’ll be a piece of his puzzle to use.

Now, I no longer print the pictures, but I keep them all stored online (sorry Wal-Mart): I can save up to 25,000 pictures, so I keep the good ones and bad ones, the imperfect ones. They’re all there for him to piece together his childhood later on, uncensored.

After all, it’s his life, I’m just the archivist.

Trapped in a SAHM body

So it’s been MONTHS since I have not been at my office job.  Okay, before you freak out, let me explain.

Last October – yes, almost 5 months ago – I chose to leave my office job to pursue other opportunities. When I left, I wasn’t in a rush to find something else. I’m getting to be a woman of a certain age and I decided to take the time to find somewhere to settle into, possibly a place to retire from!

Ah, to have lofty ideals! Bah!

Anyway, with Christmas approaching, I made the conscious decision to take a break, enjoy my son, declutter my house and try to find the career to put my sights on.  Besides, no one would be hiring in November anyway, right?

Christmas was incredible. I had Kidlet with me. We decorated the tree. We did Christmasy things. I celebrated my birthday more than once. New Year’s too was fun! So that was all well and good. I was happy, free to do what I wanted to do and for the first time in a long time, my mind was clear. Then the fuss of New Year’s passed and Kidlet went back to school.

Polar Bear Swim 2014 The water was about 6 degrees C or  42 degrees F.....brrrrrr

Polar Bear Swim 2014
The water was about 6 degrees C or 42 degrees F…..brrrrrr

The thing is (and I see it so clearly now) I seemed to have overlooked one little thing in this whole scheme….I am not cut out to be a Stay-At-Home Mom (SAHM)! I’ve had A LOT of time to think about this. I’ve not been an office worker for almost five months now and while the first half of those five months was great, the second half has not been so great.

My mother was a primary school teacher, and to top it off, we attended her school, so I know just how hard it is to work full-time outside the home AND raise a family.  I was never one of those children who wished their mum didn’t have a full-time job since we were together ALL THE TIME. She finished work when we finished school, she was home when we were on vacation and she was home on the weekends too. You would think that it was too much, but it actually wasn’t. When she was home, she was definitely Mummy and when she was at work she was Mrs. Hunte. Make no mistake about that. Parenting was done at home.

Kidlet has asked me more than once when I’m going back to work. At first I was kinda offended, but then I realized that to him, I am a Working Mother. He’s been in childcare since he was 1 and has never known me to pick him up from school or to be one of the mothers standing outside the classroom window when the bell rang. Mornings were not lazy time, rolling out of bed at 7.15 to leisurely watch cartoons while having a hot breakfast. No. His reality – and mine, as a matter of fact – is being dragged out of bed at 6.30, sit and have a bowl of cereal while maybe watching half of a cartoon then into the shower, get dressed and try to be out door by 7.45 so I could make the train. It’s who we are. It’s who he knows us to be.

I do understand why it happened, though. You always think the grass is greener on the other side, right? While at work, I longed to be able to attend class concerts and all the other things mentioned in notices I sadly filed away instead of writing their messages into my dayplanner.

Now I see that while it has been wonderful sleeping in and being able to see him relaxed and not rushed when leaving the house, it’s not really who I am. I need the adrenaline. I need the pressure. I need the confinement and structure that a paid job gives me. I need to have a larger purpose and discuss things other than the Lego movie and if we could arrange a play date to see someone’s new puppy. I know raising a child is the best job I can have. I don’t discount that. I just think that I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting it in the very limited time I’ve had. Stretching it out for whole days on end is too much for me. Conversely, I’m sure if career SAHMs had to do their parenting in 3 hours a day after a full day at the office and 2 hours of commuting, they would not enjoy it either.

So here I am, struggling to return to myself – Working Mother. It’s who I am. Kidlet likes me being at home, but the fact that he’s clearly waiting for me to go back to work, I know he knows it’s who I am too!

Being a big sister is hard!

When you’re a big sister and I mean, like a real big sister, not just a regular sister who just happens to be older, it’s hard. Let me clarify what I mean by big sister in relation to siblings:

  • You’ve changed their diapers
  • You’ve walked them to school
  • You’ve definitely eaten something they’ve already had in their mouths.
  • You’ve seen them naked for sure!
  • You’ve lied to your parents to protect them.
  • You’ve fought for them.
  • You’ve helped them through a break-up.
  • You’ve given advice, usually, but not always unsolicited.
  • You’ve given them something you’ve used.

The hardest part about being a big sister – and I am an authority on the matter, having 5 younger brothers – is keeping the almost uncontrollable urge to protect under control.

Since our mum passed, the weight of being the eldest has increased tremendously, but lightened at the same time. Now that we are no longer guided by our parent, I feel that much more responsible. Concurrently, though, I feel like without a parent, it’s sink or float time! To balance the two extremes is where I struggle.

Today, I got into it with one of my baby brothers and it’s been a while since I was this mad at one of my brothers. In essence, I hung up on him on Skype. I don’t know why. I guess there’s a frustration inherent in any of my relationships with them. It’s me trying to mother them and also the realization that I HAVE to mother them now all wrapped around the fact that I am not actually their mother. It’s very confusing. What’s the point of experience if I can’t use it to help them avoid heartache, pain or regret?

I guess, in the end, the most important thing about being a big sister is that they know that I love them and I care enough about them to tell them the truth and make sure they know that I’m there for them no matter what, regardless of whether I disagree with their choices or not. That’s what love is anyway, right? In the end, all I can do is love them. I can’t protect them all the time. They have to make their own mistakes and make their own decisions. Sigh. Sure, they can be avoided, but it’s not my diversion to make.

Being a big sister is hard, but it’s one of the most important things I am. I hope that each of them know that.

V