Happy Birthday baby girl, today you are seven years old. You are the youngest child and so sometimes you get a little lost in the shuffle of this big family. Don’t fret, you will find your voice; the beautiful voice that it is. When you sing in the car, daddy turns the radio down just a little so we can hear you. We picked up on that; the harmony in your little girl voice and it warms us like sunshine. Your big sister’s friends tell me you are so beautiful, they are jealous of your dark wavy hair and your freckles. The freckles you hate but make you so, you. The freckles that show how you match daddy, how you are his little girl. You are our baby and we love you. Seven years ago today you were born and we were told not to touch you, we were told to hold our breath because you may not be here come morning. But by some miracle and the genius of the doctors on your team you stayed with us and each day that you fought for life and we cried at your side, unable to hold your hand we knew you would be super special to us. And you are. And you always will be.
20 years ago today I became a mother for the first time. I was only 22 years old and I was scared out of my mind. I thought there was no way I could raise a child and have him turn out okay. I was still afraid of the dark for god sakes! Turns out, despite my craziness I did do a good job because the young man I have raised is kind, thoughtful, calm, and extremely giving. He treats women with respect and will someday make someone an amazing husband.
So today my baby turns 20, he is no longer a teenager, he is a man. This day is a milestone in his life but sadly he got injured during training with the Canadian military and broke his hand in two places. He will spend the day of his 20th birthday having his hand put back together on an operating table in an Edmonton hospital. Talking with him last night really opened my eyes to how much he has grown up. He is not afraid of his impending operation, he is keeping a light and easy spirit in spite of being in pain and being so far away from his family and his girlfriend. He is a brave and genuine person, he is my hero and I am very proud of him.
Today I stumbled upon this video about bullying by Shane Koyczan, http://www.upworthy.com/bullies-called-him-pork-chop-he-took-that-pain-with-him-and-then-cooked-it-into?g=3 it’s a beautifully written, spoken poem with animation, the animation is beautiful and touching in it’s own right.
This is an incredibly important video and as a person who was also bullied as a child I found myself crying over it. There is one part where he says “we grew up believing no on would ever fall in love with us, that we’d be lonely forever, that we’d never meet someone to make us feel like the sun was something they built for us in their tool shed. So broken heart strings bled the blues as we tried to empty ourselves so we would feel nothing.” That particular collection of words really hit home to me. I was bullied from grade 6 into high school simply because I had buckteeth. My parents were not able to get braces for me until I was 16. The happiest day of my life, and it is sad to say so, is the day I had my braces put on. I grew up in a military family and spent my childhood moving every 4 years. In grade 6 I started in a new school in a smaller town and that’s when the bullying started. I can remember laying in bed at night and thinking the same thing that Shane Koyczan says in his amazing poem; that no one would ever fall in love with me, I was going to grow up lonely, that this would never go away, this would never get better. It did get better as my teeth were straightened, as I grew up and found beauty in myself. However the pain you endure as a child, being barked at all the way home from the bus stop, being called bucky beaver, ugly, freak, the pain of those words carry into adulthood. They make you fear the day your children start school, fear that they will endure the same pain. Or worse that they will inflict pain on others.
Because of my teeth and the relentless teasing I learned to hide away, to not get too close to people for fear I would get too comfortable and maybe forget to cover my mouth with my hand when I smiled or laughed. I was always so careful to cover my mouth. I was one of the lucky ones though, I had friends, friends that considered themselves good people for allowing me to hang out with them, you know, considering…. Friends that would think it were okay to say, “you are the nicest person in our class but you are the ugliest.” I never want my children to have to plan out how they are going to walk from one class to the next to avoid certain people, to have to walk down a hallway while the name calling hits you like a slap in the face. I never want my children to have to laugh when someone makes a reference to how you remind them of bugs bunny, like laughing at yourself will make the humiliation less intense. I never wanted anyone to know their comments hurt me, somehow that made it worse in my eyes. So I laughed along with them and they in turn thought I was so nice, with no idea how much I actually hated them. Thank you Shane Koyczan, your words WILL make a difference.
Please note this blog post was hard to write, I still feel the sting of humiliation recalling that time in my young life. Share Shane’s video, like his facebook page, follow him on twitter; watch him as he makes a difference.
My youngest son has been riding dirt bikes since he was three years old. He could ride a dirt bike before he learned how to ride his bicycle. He spent exactly one week with training wheels before he begged to have his father take them off. For hours he would ride circles around our yard, so desperate to keep going he would pee in his pants so he didn’t have to stop and use the bathroom.
Eventually we went from this circling the yard, pants peeing activity to practicing at a real live sand track in our area. Which, according to the professionals, is one of the toughest motocross tracks in Canada. As a family we were pretty new to this whole dirt bike, motocross, racetrack thing. My husband had been riding, he was no stranger to it but the rest of us, well it was pretty frightening at first. I was waiting for my son, who was four by this point; to ride himself into some fiery crash, break every bone in his body or worse. But in reality he started off going so slow my husband could run beside him.
When we put him into his first race, he was 5 years old and cried the whole way to the start gate he was so afraid. I of course wanted to pull him out and take him home, back to riding around the safety of our large yard. But my husband gave him a pep talk, wiped away his tears and stood with him at the starting line waiting for his turn. Watching this race was actually so cute and stressful, can’t forget the stressful. Cute because they were all so little, just chugging along the track, sometimes slowing down to a crawl to get around the corners. Stressful because my son didn’t understand the flags yet and didn’t want to get off when the checkered flag was flapped in front of him. We would have to race to the finish line to make sure he got off lest he be stuck on the track when the next set of racers (the bigger bikes) came along. He would meet us back at our trailer, huge smile on his face and ask if he won. Clueless. He had no idea what position he was in; he was just out there riding.
That same race weekend my son had made a new friend. This new friend loved to push his bike to the limit, which caused him to fall, a great deal. Well during the second race in the afternoon this little guy fell in front of my son. So seeing his friend down my son stopped, dropped his dirt bike, ran over to make sure his friend was okay then proceeded to try and start his bike for him. Once he was off and running my son went back to his own bike and couldn’t get it started. Someone came along finally and helped him out. He didn’t quite get the concept that he was in a “race”. When the coordinators of this race weekend heard about this act of good sportsmanship they were really impressed. So while my son didn’t win a trophy the weekend of his introduction to motocross racing, he was pulled up in front of everyone and awarded the first and only Good Sportsmanship Award this racing circuit had ever given which consisted of a brand new helmet (they are expensive, so this was a pretty big deal) and acknowledgement of his good deed. It was really unheard of for a racer to stop and help another rider during a race, thus losing his position. But to a little kid, who’s just checking to make sure his new friend is okay, it really seemed a no brainer.
With four kids at home and two step kids part time I often use my painting time as a an artistic release from the chaotic life that so many children under one roof provide. I have many stories about life with six kids. Here is one, unfortunately it is a true story! haha
It’s funny really; you bring home this tiny package, bundled snug in a blanket, ready only for your love and care. Then you lose a little sleep, gain a little weight, blink for just a moment and your wonderful, sweet little baby is two and calling you names that would embarrass a sailor. You break out into a sweat at the thought of entering any public domain with your child. The “F” word, that dreaded word that you most fear always slips out of his tiny lips at the exact moment an old lady bends in for a closer look. The words “aren’t you a darling” hang empty in the air as she “tsk, tsks” her way to the cash. This is not a word he learned in a picture book, or one of his movies, if you are lucky like us you could blame it on his teenage brother but for most it is obvious that this word was learned by you, the parent.
Like most parents, we dread our trip to the grocery store. It was on our last shopping trip that our son decided he wanted freezies, in the middle of March. Of course not freezies that you take home, freeze for a day and enjoy later; no, no, freezies at that moment, in that aisle. We tried to tell him just two aisles down he would find some already frozen. But he lay there, spread out on the floor, legs flailing, arms outstretched as if calling in help from the heavens above and I felt that familiar feeling. The shortness of breath, the pounding heart, the get me out of this moment now or I might lose total control feeling. I could have picked him up and endured some bruises from his swinging limbs. I could have grabbed him by the hand and dragged his limp body down the aisle. I could have threatened him with lose of toys, treats, life or limbs but then I would have been witness to an academy award winning performance at high volume, in surround sound. Instead I walked away and simply waved good-bye. It worked. Somehow, on that day, the clouds parted; letting out a little ray of sunshine I depicted as hope and turned my child into a sudden angel. We went merrily down the aisle on to the frozen section where he choose Popsicles, placed them carefully in the cart and proceeded to tell us to hurry. As I do not tell a lie you will believe me when I say we went straight to the cash and then straight to hell. He began his usual swing form the shiny silver “balance beams” which called out to him for at least one lick on its germ infested coldness. As he swung and slide on his bum across the dusty floor he started a rant. “Oh no, oh, oh, I can’t take this. Oh no, oh, oh, I can’t take this. Hurry. I can’t take this.”
I dared to ask, “What can’t you take?”
“I want my treat.”
The nice lady on the cash laughed and said “oh how cute. Well I think they are going to make you wait though.”
I laughed with her, although my laugh quickly slipped into the hysterical laugh of a lunatic. I knew from painful experience that we were nowhere near home free. We packed our groceries into the cart, shuffled his little body along to distract him as we began our exit from the store; not soon enough though, for he yelled with great irritation, “hurry, you fucking idiot.” Ah parenting, the job meant for a saint.