Why are mommies so sure?

I spend a lot of time talking to Lila. I know that sounds silly because as her mother, that’s probably a given, but I don’t mean I spend a lot of time talking at her, or shouting orders, or disciplining, or reciting routine instructions as we hurry about our day. Of course I spend time doing those things as well, but Lila is a cool, even tempered kid, who just loves to chat. She asks me endless questions and teaches me things simultaneously. I often say that she’s smarter than me and it’s not really a joke.

As we snuggled on the couch the other night and I answered a slew of questions Lila had, she asked me this: “Why are mommies so sure?”

I laughed and tried to give a thoughtful answer, but I couldn’t find one. Before I could dwell on it any longer we were onto the next topic. Thing is, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Sure? Is that how it looks? Because I can speak for all the moms (and dads) when I say we are almost never sure. Before I became a parent, I was sure of everything. I was sure I would breastfeed, but bottle feed once a day, so I wouldn’t be a slave to my little girl. I was sure my child would never sleep in my bed. I was sure I would teach my daughter how to read before she started kindergarten.

In reality, Lila didn’t take a bottle until she started daycare because I had gone back to work and the choice was to finally take a bottle, or starve. Lila slept in our bed for almost a year until she got a double bed of her own. And so far, Lila recognizes the letters in her name and believes every other letter is T.

It's cool to eat Goldfish right from the bag in your bikini, right?

It’s cool to eat Goldfish right from the bag in your bikini, right?

Somehow, the actual manifestation of parenthood stripped away any sureness. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I was unsure. Even though we had been trying for three years, I felt it was too soon, too scary. I remember ticking off my 35th week of pregnancy on the calendar and thinking, “This was a mistake.” Not because I didn’t want to have a baby, but because I wasn’t sure I could hack it.

I’m still not sure I’m doing anything right, or if I’m any good at what I’m doing.

I’m not sure if cucumbers and grapes will keep Lila from getting scurvy. I’m not sure if it’s okay to lie and tell her it’s chicken when I serve her fish nuggets. I’m not sure if I should be serving fish nuggets.

Fast food breakfast for the win

Fast food breakfast for the win

I’m never sure I’m dressing Lila in the right clothes, the right shoes, or even the right underwear because for the love of all things holy that child always has a wedgie, which distresses her to no end.

I recently made a self-deprecating joke about being a bad mother when I saw a picture of Lila and her daycare friends enjoying a picnic. She was the only one not wearing a hat in the blazing sun because I didn’t even think to pack one. So I laughed it off, but am I neglectful? I’m not sure.

I know I’m not alone. In conversations with other parents, no matter if we know each other well, or are only acquaintances, I end up asking when their child stopped peeing through the night, or how much their child weighs, or where they buy clothes? The questions are reciprocated and we compare and analyze and judge profusely. “Hi, nice to see you. What did Emma have for breakfast? What time does she go to bed? Can she count to 20?”

At Easter dinner, my sister tried unsuccessfully to get my nephew to try her apple pie and lamented, “I just wish Carter would eat more desserts.” To which I replied, in annoying little sister fashion, “Said no parent ever.” The fact is, she wasn’t sure either. The kid won’t eat cake and every birthday party he ever goes to will fill her with questions like, “Is it weird if I send vanilla ice cream?” or “Will he feel left out?”

The cool thing is that no matter how silly we feel trying to act the role of confident parents, our children believe we are sure. They think we’ve got it all together and they want to know everything we know because to them we have all the answers. We know everything. At least in the early years.

Fishing in a tutu. Lila not Daddy.

Fishing in a tutu. Lila not Daddy.

The only thing I’m genuinely sure of is that Lila has been alive for 1629 days. I’m sure that all of those 1629 days are infinitely more important than the 10,000 odd days I lived before she was born. I am sure that I love her unconditionally and I’m sure I’ll continue to be unsure all of my remaining days.

So, Lila, why are mommies so sure? We aren’t. Like ever. But we have children who believe we know what we’re doing, so we try to make careful, conscious decisions as we fumble our way through life. I am so grateful you believe in me. Of that, I am sure.

I’m Trying to Get Your Words in My Mouth

In November of last year my stepmother passed away suddenly. A massive heart attack at the age of 63.

Now wait.

Gather up all the the preconceived notions you have of how I must feel about that. A stepmother?

Well, here’s the truth. I loved her. Granted, my 15-year-old self did not share the same opinion, but as an adult, I had formed a bond with her that was so desperately important to me. She loved and cared for my father for 20 years before he passed away. He was a wonderful man who had many struggles. I will tell that story when I can find the words.

Pat and I held onto my dad through each other. We could talk about him, laugh and cry about him and just straight up love him. Together.

But it wasn’t just my dad that drew me to her, she was a life force beyond what I can reasonably explain. So when I got the call from my stepsister Cindy that Pat had died, here was my reaction: “Not for real.” Of course for real. Why would Cindy ever call me to give me news like that if it wasn’t for real? So it was real, but impossible to understand. How could someone so alive be gone?

Meet Pat, or rather Nanny Pat as she was known to most.

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Nanny Pat in her theatrical glory

 

An avid community theatre buff, a devoted mother and grandmother to her beautiful family. A wonder to my little girl. She could fill a room with laughter, love and a firm dose of silly. She touched lives everywhere she went. People were drawn to her giant personality and her witty charm.

To give you an idea of just how bright a star she was, when we went to choose the arrangement for the Pat’s urn we asked for lots of orange (her favourite colour), butterflies (she thought my dad visited as one), and sparkles. The florist just stared back. “Sparkles?” Yes, she was the kind of person who needed sparkles at her funeral.

Lila processed Nanny Pat’s passing as little girls do. I explained that Nanny Pat went to Heaven. Lila said, “Oh. Who’s heaven?” And after a little more explanation she carried on with her day.

Several times since then Nanny Pat has come up in conversation. One very early morning Lila crawled into our bed and said, “Mommy? I was thinking about Nanny Pat and I’m sad that she died. Are you sad about that?” I assured her that of course I was sad. She said, “Me too. I really miss her. It’s not fair that she died.”

When you’re grieving, it’s easy to let a statement like that slide around undeveloped because there isn’t a good way to talk about it.

Well, Christmas passed. It was Pat’s favourite time of year. She spent many months each year pouring love into her gifts to stretch a small budget into small wonders. We missed her terribly over the holidays, but I can only imagine her lovely immediate family felt a big empty space where she should have been.

Lila didn’t ask after Nanny Pat during the Christmas season, but out of the blue after swimming lessons the other night Lila asked me when Nanny Pat wouldn’t be dead anymore. I felt a little crack in my heart. I explained that she would always be dead.

Lila wanted to know how she could talk to Nanny Pat because she missed her. Having been out to my father’s gravesite recently Lila said this:

“I will write Nanny Pat a letter and leave it on the stones for her to find.”

Ouch. Two more cracks. I explained that if she wanted to talk to Nanny Pat, all she had to do was talk. Nanny Pat would hear her.

Lila: You mean just talk out loud?

Me: Yes, Nanny Pat is in Heaven and she’s always listening.

Lila: Right now?

Me: Yes. Always.

Lila: What would you say to Nanny Pat?

Me: I would say that I miss her and I love her and I hope she’s with my dad.

At this point I look up from getting Lila’s socks on and Lila has her tongue hanging out.

Me: Are you trying to lick me?

Lila: No. I’m trying to get your words in my mouth so I can say them to Nanny Pat for you.

Really? REALLY? I think my heart split into a million pieces. This is the moment we truly broke down every ugly connotation that the word “stepmother” drudges up. She was family, so important that she is on Lila’s mind nearly three months after she passed away. It goes to show you how far Nanny Pat’s reach was. A wee toddler who flits from dress up to colouring to singing, to dancing within minutes can’t get her off the brain.

At Pat’s funeral, her granddaughters bravely delivered a eulogy. I still think of them as children, but I shouldn’t. They are strong, confident ladies. I hope Pat’s love had something to do with that. As Charlotte said that heart-breaking day, “Nanny Pat made sure to hug us and tell us she loved us at least once an hour.”

Which explains why I can’t stop thinking about her. A woman who I would have called my arch nemesis as a bitchy pre-teen carved a piece of me away when she left this world. I think when someone loves you so loudly and then suddenly isn’t there your soul needs some repair work.

My dad passed away five years ago. Lila never met him. I am so deeply happy that she got to know Nanny Pat, that she was lucky enough to be loved by Nanny Pat. She’s not quite four, but I know she will remember Nanny Pat forever. That kind of love leaves a mark.

Nanny Pat with my nephews Carter and Quinn

Nanny Pat with my nephews Carter and Quinn

I think most of us who knew her feel lucky just to have been a part of her bright and shiny world. Our world won’t be nearly as bright or shiny without her, but she’s definitely tuning in to what we’re doing with a glass of white wine, well, after Young and the Restless, of course.

Lila asked me what I was writing just now. When I told her she said “I have a letter too. I love you, Nanny Pat and I would love to see you, but you’re in Heaven. Write that.”

That sums it up perfectly.

 

Do bees talk to humans?

As a baby, Lila’s ability to babble to herself and stay amused was uncanny, adorable and welcomed. Her days were filled with an incessant string of nonsense kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher (wah wah wah wah), but all cute and baby-like.

All dressed up to marry Daddy

Around the age of two she took strong command of her words and began to replace the indecipherable chatter with carefully selected conversation. And now that she is the ripe old age of three and a half, this former background noise is now a never-ending project. Tylor and I are Lila’s information highway and we are
well-travelled and often suffering from gridlock.

Lila: Wow! The moon is a whole circle. I didn’t know it was a circle this year. I only saw it cracked open before. Where do the cracked off pieces go?

Me: Um…well, the sun spins around, no wait…the moon is always whole and the pieces don’t actually crack off. So, there’s this thing called the solar system…. *forehead slap*

Come on! Pull it together, Mommy! Lila just stared blankly at me and waited eagerly to gather every piece of information I was about to hand off. I could have just made something up, but I owed her more than that, so we talked about orbiting and the sun and Earth and whether or not any of it sunk in, or if she was even capable of understanding, I was as thorough as I could be because she asked.

This is the same logic we’ve always applied to words. It is not a buh-buh, it’s a bottle. Don’t ta-ta, just hand it to me, please. It’s not a pee-pee, it’s a vagina (much to Tylor’s horror of course). Side note: It is a most hilarious situation when you come home from work to find your husband really in need of a hug after he had to use the
V word and the P word while explaining that Lila’s vagina would never be long…you know, like Daddy’s. I’m certain a small part of him died that day, but even still it was a valuable conversation to help Lila understand how she fits into her little world.

Our insistence on proper words comes back to haunt, naturally. Lila corrects us if we call the Jeep a car, or if we call it a sweater instead of a hoodie. And on more than one occasion she has schooled me hard for not saying please. Fair enough. Right is right.

When she uses words like permission, appropriate and correct it’s baffling and wonderful. I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising when she re-uses the words we give her, but we’re always amazed at her ability to apply them correctly. I’ll admit I was even a little proud of her when she correctly used an f-bomb in a sentence…I’m the worst.

Last night, while tucking Lila into bed, she started asking questions about bees after having watched Bee Movie. Super, I know a ton about bees, er…

Lila: Do bees talk to humans?

Me: No, that’s just pretend for the movie.

Lila: I know that, Mommy. But movie bees talk to humans, don’t they?

Me: Yes, I suppose they do.

Lila: They do. They talk and talk and make friends with humans and then they just act like bees.

As you can see, I learn a lot from Lila as well. Coupled with her hunger for words, is a wild and beautiful imagination. She once told me that I should have a headband in my short hair because they are baby headbands before they are ponytails.

Double Crown

I admit, coming up with an answer to “what does my blood do all day?” isn’t easy, but it forces us to question what we think we know and wonder how this world actually operates. And the challenge is not only in getting the information, but in delivering it in a way that is fairly accurate to a little girl who believes that movie bees just hang out with movie humans all day. She learns, you learn. It’s a cool side effect of parenting.

Even when you are adamant that you don’t have the time to properly answer the 572nd question your child has asked you that day, you’re going to wish you did when she says, “Aunt Gertrude? Mommy said you’re old and crazy and that’s why you have a beard like Daddy.”

There’s a First for Everything

My famous first words. I thought, as your gracious host, it would be appropriate to introduce myself and my family. I am Christie and my partners in crime are Tylor and Lila. That makes us TLC. Not planned (I promise) but it’s the way we sign our greeting cards all the same.

You and me and Lila makes three

You and me and Lila makes three

We live a pretty cool existence in our little bungalow, in a small town with our friends and family close at hand and our wee pooch Tinker by our side. As most of the readers of this page and the countless posts that follow will either fall into the family or friends category, I doubt there is much further need for introduction, however, here are a few things that dot our tiny family’s history:

  • Tylor and I met in kindergarden, became each other’s first significant other in Grade 5, separated tragically after a kiss in the playground and then reunited seven years later at a local coffee shop. That was 14 years ago and we still mostly dig each other. We got married in 2007 and welcomed Lila into our lives in 2011.
  • Lila. Where. To. Start. She is a bundle of sass and intelligent conversation. She is stunningly pretty, but equally as kind. She demands the use of manners, proper vocabulary and she thinks farts are funny (thanks, Ty). She schools me daily on the wonders of this life, she asks questions when she doesn’t understand and absorbs absolutely every detail that is handed to her. As a reader, you’ll get to know her pretty well. I sorta love talking about her.
  • As far as hobbies, Tylor is an avid gym-aholic; he lost 85 pounds in the last two years and has even accomplished getting his wife to enjoy working out…for reals. I love canning, cooking and simple crafting. Lila enjoys painting, watching movies and general toddler mayhem.

I am excited to share a little bit of our lives with the world. The greatest gift I have received from motherhood is the ability to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I hope I can impart some of that onto you. It is a beautiful way to see the world.

I haven’t decided which post is coming next: my conversation with Lila about why I shouldn’t drink wine from a box, my abysmal attempts at crocheting, or why you shouldn’t cringe at the thought of eating pickled eggs.