Full Circle Moment

Once upon a time, a little boy invited all his friends in his neighbourhood to come to his house on his birthday. The date was set and his friends promised to come.

The day of the event rolled around. All of the children from the neighbourhood arrived at the allotted time, dressed for a party with gifts in hand.

The only problem was, it wasn’t the little boy’s birthday at all. And he hadn’t told his parents about his guests. His mother, mortified, sent the children home. With their presents.

This took place approximately 70 years ago.

******

Last week, First Born Son came home told and told me about a conversation he had with the young son of a family friend. His birthday was coming up and he wanted to invite FBS to his party.

“You can bring your Mom too!” he stated, and FBS recounted with a laugh.

Touched by the young man’s thoughtfulness, and chuckling over his precociousness, I headed out to find the perfect gift. Two John Deere T shirts for a “hard working” young man.

Although FBS couldn’t join me due to his work schedule, I took the gift to the wee lad’s house. There was no party. His parents weren’t even home from work. His grandmother, who is a caregiver for him and his older sister, was taken aback to when she came to the door. The boy and his sister were delighted to see me, and he gleefully took the gift and shredded the colourful paper. The grandmother sputtered appreciation for the gift, how kind the gesture was, how unexpected, how her daughter and son-in-law would be surprised to learn their son, the birthday boy, had made such a bold invitation.

This boy’s birthday was June 10.

The first story is about my father. His birthday was June 9.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

Although it’s been two years since he passed, I found it somewhat comforting that this story, that he told us many times, came to me in the moment that I realized that I was invited to a party that wasn’t happening; for a young man who just wanted to have some people over to celebrate.

Happy Birthday Duddy!

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IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

Yes, the summer flew by far too quickly, but that’s not the only thing that has happened in the blink of an eye.

Yup, I'm going to trot this picture out any time I have a chance!!!

Yup, I’m going to trot this picture out any time I have a chance!!!

This wee, innocent, fragile soul graduated from high school! I KNOW! Crazy right? He just learned how to walk last week, so the fact that he went to his Prom is incomprehensible!

A Boy and his Truck

A Boy and his Truck

Because no Prom is complete without photos, and because I’m not a fan of the traditional “stand beside your date” snaps, we did a full-fledged shoot with the one thing in the world that fills First Born Son’s heart, his truck.

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While other grads were cozying up to their significant others, this grad wanted to make sure he had all the shots he could possibly get with his truck.

This blows my mind. Every. Single. Time.

This blows my mind. Every. Single. Time.

Don’t misunderstand, he had a date. She looked lovely. She was thrilled that he had a cool ride. But he just wasn’t that hung up on pix with a chick when he could have pix with his pickup truck!

Sigh

Sigh

The afternoon was bittersweet, because, with the pride we had in how he has wrapped up this chapter of his life and standing on the edge of the next, I couldn’t help but think of how proud my Dad would be. Not only did FBS rock his suit, and look ever inch a young man, but he made sure his grandfather was represented on this special day. He wore Dad’s cufflinks.

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After what was, in his words, one of the best nights of his life, FBS said “Farewell” to his high school years. He was more than ready to drive off into the sunset, as long as the sun set over his college!

Aviators - the finishing touch!

Aviators – the finishing touch!

Minutes after this photo was taken, he started working for a landscaper and we didn’t see him again until the day before he moved into residence. (I’m only being mildly sarcastic, it was actually two days before.)

As “Move In/Move Out” day approached, advice started flooding in. I was going to cry. I was going to be emotional. I was going to miss him like CRAZY! Well as time progressed, I wasn’t getting emotional, I was nervous. Anxious that he wasn’t allowing enough time to get ready. Not making sure that he was prepared for the practical demands of being responsible for himself. (Grocery shopping wasn’t a priority until his Uncle mentioned he might was to look into it. We did it the next day, at FBS’s insistence!) I never developed the symptoms others warned me about and I was starting worry that I was a lousy mother for not dreading my child’s imminent departure.

I remember my parents’ reaction to my leaving for college. It was a difficult transition and I felt very scared. I didn’t want that for FBS. Both the Big Guy and I felt that doing our job as parents would be to prepare our son for the world, support him in his decisions and be happy for his successes. If I’m sad or upset, I take away from his excitement, and maybe even damage his chance of success. If I make my feelings more important that his, it diminishes what he accomplishes.

Besides, we were both really excited for him. (The Big Guy was most excited about FBS’s Dorm Life – flashback anyone??) There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a young person on the edge of a wonderful opportunity. We could see how excited he was and how he was so ready to GO!  How could I, as a parent, be anything but thrilled for him? Parents are only successful if our children are happy and achieve the dreams the set for themselves. The whole “Bird flying from the nest” analogy is corny, but it’s perfect for this situation. We are excited that he’s ready to fly, and can’t wait to see how far he goes and where he lands!

So, three weeks in, I have yet to cry because I miss him. (Partly because he texts me more now than he did when we lived under the same roof!) I have already seen him grow and change in wonderful ways. He’s starting to learn the things we are unable to teach him; what he has to learn for himself. I’m not feeling emotional when I walk past his room (I know he’ll be back when the food and clean clothes run out!).  I don’t miss him in a negative way; I think about him just as much as I regularly do and I’m always thinking that I can’t wait to hear his stories!

And I don’t have nearly as much cooking or laundry to do!! 😉

I Wish…

I wish we didn’t have to have a tragedy to make us aware of how precious every day truly is.

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I wish children didn’t have to lose their parents.

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I wish parents never had to bury their children.

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I wish husbands only buried their wives after many long and happy years together.

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I wish that anyone who got behind the wheel of a car while impaired only hurt themselves.

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I wish there was a way to turn back time.

“Live every day as if it were going to be your last; for one day you’re sure to be right.”
~Harry “Breaker” Harbord Morant

If you’re not First, you’re Last!

I’ve never been a huge fan of “Participation” ribbons. They started in the late 1970s to early 1980s and I remember them at Track and Field, right around this time of year.

Some years, I’d never be in the top four in a given event, but I’d still come home with that blue or white or yellow “Participant” ribbon. I hated it. Who cares that you showed up? I wanted to be good enough to actually get a red (First), blue (Second) or white (Third) ribbon. I never liked the idea of conforming or being just like the rest of the kids, so being handed a ribbon that every other kid was getting was NOT working for me.

In the following decades, Participating became a real achievement. They even made MEDALS for it! I watched my kids bring home wheelbarrow loads of Participation medallions that hang sadly in the corner of their rooms. They are prized or valued. They are dust collectors. I guess that’s the problem when your mom isn’t into participation so much as she is into TRYINGYOURFREAKIN’BEST!

As I have said numerous times, I’m not about perfection, but I am about giving YOUR best EFFORT. If my very best wasn’t as good as your best, then I bloody well want you to get the ribbon for winning, because then I’m going to work harder to whip your butt the next time!

Which reminds me of one of my all time favourite lines in a movie….

YOU'RE LAST

Not exactly what I believe in, but it’s still a great line.

The Big Guy and I have never been the types of parents to tell our kids that they were “the best” at something merely because they were our children, or to make them feel better about themselves. I know several occasions where First Born Son or Second Born Son would come to one of us, crestfallen that they hadn’t received an award they were coveting at school, or hockey, or softball. Sometimes the kid who did get the award was no more deserving, which just added insult to injury, but when the recipient was deserving (which was most of the time) I’d show my offspring why I could see the justice in the decision. Maybe the winner studied harder, practiced more, was more consistent in their efforts. You put in the work, you bring home the hardware – if that’s what you want out of life.

Which is what made last week so very special.

SBS has really embraced his artistic side. His weekly art classes are his favourite times of the week and he spends just about every free moment doing this….

Artist at work!

Artist at work!

He has taken over the dining room, and is often found drawing while listening to YouTube videos about the latest Marvel film or comic book release.

His talent is unmistakeable. And remember, I’m not a gusher!

Original on left, SBS's rendition on the right…crazy, right?

Original on left, SBS’s rendition on the right…crazy, right?

And this…

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Each year there is an art show where all the students, young and old, display their pieces and invite their friends and family to see their work. It’s a lovely evening at the teacher’s studio, spilling out into the back yard.

This year was no different, except for one small detail. SBS won the big award of the evening, Most Improved Artist! The award recognized SBS’s dedication and hard work which was so evident in his art. I loved this for two reasons – one, he was competing against himself, which means he ends up being better, and two, because I don’t believe art can really be judged one piece against another, this award was about the artist’s growth and not his work in comparison to others’.

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He received hardware AND a certificate! Here we have the artist pose with a sample of his body of work.

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And the cherry on the top was that he sold one of his pieces that very night!

Bye Buh Spider Man!

Bye Buh Spider Man!

But what made it so important to SBS was that while he didn’t expect it, he realized after that he was deserving. Isn’t that what makes winning so sweet?

The Big Wee-ner!

The Big Wee-ner!

The hardware now sits in a place of honour in the living room, for all to see and admire! 🙂

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The Birds and the Bees

If you live in Ontario, you recently became aware of the new Sex Education curriculum for public elementary school students.

You also recently became aware that when it comes to talking about sensitive topics, some Ontarians would rather discuss personal debt and their credit score before they would want to talk about sex. Take our provincial government for example. The previous curriculum was crafted in the mid to late 1990s, decades before “sexting” was part of the vernacular.

Pix taken shortly before the last Sex Education curriculum update...

Pix taken shortly before the last Sex Education curriculum update…

Immediate reaction was critical; those parents who felt the new lessons went too far, and those who felt things were left out.

In a nutshell, the new curriculum would introduce the concept of consent starting in Grade 1. Considering grown adults struggle with consent, I think this is bloody brilliant. What better time to educate a human about permission to touch another human being than when they are at their most “touchy-feely”!?

Then, GASP, children are introduced to what masturbation is around Grade 6. Since most kids – particularly in my experience, the male ones, have hands-on experience in this area before this age, I’m not sure why this is so shocking?? Let’s be proactive instead of reactive. Especially when it comes to making babies! Pregnancy prevention hits around Grade 8 and while you might be about to protest that this is FAR too young, let me advise you that a student a year old than First Born Son became a daddy several years ago, at the ripe old age of 14. I’m thinking this new curriculum would have helped him tremendously!

The argument many people have is that sexual education should come from a child’s parents. In a perfect world, it would. In a perfect world, all parents would be perfect too, so the type of information passed to their children would be flawless. Alas, we have flawed parents who are teaching their flawed perspectives of sexuality on to their children. There are some parents who get it right and are able to give their children a healthy understanding of their sexuality; and there are the others. I’m thinking of the parents of a girl who came to school and accused two boys of making inappropriate comments to her (think along the lines of various sexual positions) that they would like to try with her. Oh, did I mention they were in Grade 4 at the time?! Following a traumatic interrogation of the two boys, it eventually came out that the comments were never made, and that the young girl shows an inordinate amount of knowledge of risqué vocabulary which, she eventually told the teacher, was due to the fact that her much older siblings allowed her to watch porn with them. THAT’S one way of educating the child in the home!!!

Now what about the parents who have their own personal sexual issues? Whether it’s an extreme religious view, homophobia, a history of molestation or perhaps being exposed to a sexually transmitted disease; is it ok that they pass along these traumas to their children? To make sex an evil and unhealthy activity that will only serve to warp yet another generation?

We were fortunate enough to have a really good conversation about sex with both our sons. The Big Guy wasn’t sure what to expect when talking to his sons, since his parents didn’t feel the need to have the conversation with him. His knowledge came from friends and the stilted sex ed program of the 1970s. I can remember feeling traumatized when the girls were corralled in one class room for the talk about the female reproductive organs, and then the following year, they threw us together with the boys to discuss how babies were made – THAT made for a very interesting afternoon recess, I can tell you that much! We were all afraid to stand too close to each other, for fear we’d make a baby!!!

Somebody needs to tell these two what is causing all these babies - and put an end to it!!!

Somebody needs to tell these two what is causing all these babies – and put an end to it!!!

Today the challenges are hitting children younger and younger. They see images online, in movies and in life. Technology provides good and bad opportunities, and denying the education necessary to navigate the waters won’t make these facts go away.

At the end of the day, sexuality is part of what makes us human and if we want our children to be healthy, whole individuals, we have to make sure they have all the information they need at the age they need it at, in the society they are faced with.

About a Girl and her Horse(s)

I could say I love horses, but that would be grossly inaccurate.

Saying I love horses is like saying, the ocean is damp. A gargantuan understatement.

I can remember riding the first pony I was able to call my own. Squirt was brown and stubborn. I was maybe five. Years later, a friend of ours was looking for a place to board her horse and since I was older, she felt he would be a good fit for me. He was a buckskin named Sir Twirp – and he was a Twirp, with a choppy gait, but he was fun. But he wasn’t mine. Neither was Pip, his stable mate and a lovely, kind and generous mount. He was perfect for me to learn how to show in the ring. He knew more than I did. But, sigh, he wasn’t mine.

Willow was mine.

He was a retired Thoroughbred whose coat glowed red when he was spiffed up. Looking at him was like looking at the sun. Sitting on him was like being on top of the world. I looked down at everyone else. I’m sure he’s the reason I’m drawn to tall horses. He was beautiful and strong and faster than a tween had any business riding. He probably could have killed me and almost succeeded when we were at a fair and he caught an eyeful of the gravel track that surrounded the fair grounds. He took off so fast, and so hard, that he could have given me whiplash. If it wasn’t for the quick thinking of a horse-savvy bystander, I may have grown up in Texas. He pulled his head down and kept him from leaving the fair grounds.

But Willow had health issues and needed more care than we were able to provide. It was decided to sell him, and also decided not to tell me – likely in hopes of avoiding the fit I would have pitched. Finally one day a truck and trailer arrived with some people I vaguely knew. I was sent to my room where I had the mother of all break downs. I could see the paddock from my bedroom window. I could see the new owner reach across and snap her lead on Willow’s halter. I remember yelling and crying so hard that I pressed my head into the window for counter pressure and ended up with a lovely crease in my forehead.

And anyone who knows me knows this; I. Don’t. Cry. Like I watched Old Yeller and didn’t cry. Like I can watch The Notebook and not cry. But put on The Horse Whisperer, and I have to have a moment. I don’t even know if I can buy a copy of War Horse because the scene in No Man’s Land is the only time I’ve ever cried in a theatre.

It took a while to get over Willow, but when I was older, and my parents felt I was more capable of caring for a horse, we tried again. We bought an Appaloosa filly and named her Darlin. She’s the one who planted me in a stone pile, but she was the sweetest thing otherwise. I worked with her for months to make her gentle; got her used to be handled and help put weight on her before it was time to get her under the saddle. I learned a lot about relating to horses, which I feel helped me later on when it came to relating to people. It helped me realize I like horses more.

When we left the farm, Darlin was sold, but I kept my tack. It would have been easy enough to sell it at our auction, but the idea of cutting all aspects of horse from my life was too much to bear. One day, I told myself, I’ll have a horse again.

Since then I’ve been blessed with very generous friends. They have invited me to go for rides (Thank you KW!) and even allowed me to roll around in their pasture fields to enjoy quality time with their equine (Thank you SH!) and I look forward to even more new babies with an upcoming session, (Hopefully next week SS?) Being around horses fills a piece of my soul. I actually have a physical reaction; tightening of the chest, faster pulse, a sense of contentment that is difficult to describe. I’m home. I watch old friends show horses in the local fall fair. I get the same overwhelming desire to grab a saddle and bridle and find the nearest bareback. It’s the smell of leather, of horse.

My boys know how much I love horses. Second Born Son, on one of our recent road trips, asked me as he admired a field of mommas and their babies; “Why don’t you just go out and buy a horse, Mom?”

I explained to him that owning a horse isn’t like buying a new toy or a lawn mower. Even buying a dog is less of a commitment. A horse relies on you every day. If you don’t feel like walking the dog, he’ll wait until later, but a horse needs you regardless of how you feel. There are no holidays. That aspect of my life is already tapped out. I want to be a great mom and wife, daughter, sister, friend and employee. There’s not much left of me after all of that.

Then there is the matter of cost. While I certainly don’t want my children to feel I am “doing without” because of them, the fact is there are priorities in my life and a luxury like making good on a childhood promise isn’t up there right now. It’s not say that it never will be.

I’m just more focused on their childhood memories.

Until then, I’ll rely on the kindness of friends for my horsey fix!