Hyperfocus on Graduation, Life and Publishing.

So…the child actually graduated which I’m sure you all know by now. The graduation year started with pre-grade 12 parties last summer, a grad sleepover, a boat cruise, a football game (I think), a semi-formal, pre-pre-grad parties, an actual pre-grad party (with parents), the party bus (also with parents, don’t ask), the grad ball, the after-grad party (also with parents…go figure), the post-after-grad (whatever else happened that night that we don’t want to know about), a breakfast, the pre-commencement party, the after-commencement dinner, the after-commencement party that she was too tired to attend, grad kidnapping, grad kidnapping breakfast (shoutout to SMcD for hosting even though her kid was NOT IN TOWN), the last day of school grad sleepout, the actual end of school party, the Canada Day pre-party and then the after party, the July 2nd party (fatefully held at my house-shoutout to my neighbour that called the cops and ended it), the last minute trip to the Pemby festival despite deciding against it…. Sympathy shoutout to all the parents with kids in Grade 12 who are going through this for the first time. You’ll be good by this time next year. And it’ll all be a fuzzy memory. Even fuzzier for the grads. #justsayin’

I remember my graduation summer (1985) and how much we all wanted to do things together—many things, all the time—because THIS WAS IT. High school was over. And we would never see our people again. The was a poignancy to every event as we’d never be together, as a high school class again. Of course we were though. That fall to be exact. People didn’t really go away to school back in the day and I saw ‘my people’ fairly often, except for Ari who ran away to film school in LA and didn’t return for ten years. However we faithfully documented a plethora of ‘last’ events that grad year and summer. And I have a collection of somewhat blurry photographs that do indeed document our Grade 12 year. Those halcyon days…before (sort of) real life.

I totally saw the same thing happening with Karis and her people…that phase where they’re clinging to the ending of one thing because they’re not quite sure they’re ready for the beginning of the next. And it’s different for them as most of them ARE going away to school. Which is terrifying but in reality, university is a bit of a bridge…a kinder, gentler (though ridiculously expensive these days) way to prolong real life. I’d still be at uni if I could possibly justify it financially. Or chronologically, in that I am actually supposed to be an adult and one does have to step up to real life one of these days.

*short lecture* A word of advice though from my very own experience…go to class. Take notes. Do the work even though the professors don’t know your name (and likely wont) and there is literally 300 other people in the class. I remember being very surprised when mid-terms suddenly ‘happened’ as I didn’t really feel I’d gone to class much or really learned anything. These teachers don’t know you, they don’t know that you’re a great kid, that you volunteer, that you do great work that is sometimes a bit late, that your siblings were geniuses and that you’re an amazing athlete. Do the work and don’t get behind. *lecture over*

Anyway, I digress. Back to the poignancy of the grad summer and how it was for ME. Because this blog is about ME and MY adventures raising a teenage daughter (and a Golden Retriever-he’s easier than the teenager just in case you were wondering). So I made an album for Karis’s grad as I wanted to document her journey in a concrete way (as opposed to the digital media of her generation), which seemed like a fun little project at the time. A couple of pages of photos for each year of her life a little blurb noting the highlights of that year. Of course, I underestimated the time. Oh the time. First there were actual photos for the first five years that needed to be scanned as they were taken before I got a digital camera. The remaining years encompassed hundreds, possibly thousands of photos that needed to be reviewed and the most ‘significant’ and ‘meaningful’ ones selected. All these photos needed to be ordered and separated into years. Then, I started doing the writing part. The first few years were easy as I had baby books. But then it got dicey as real life crept in and I forgot to record significant events and milestones. Through a serious and calculated audit of my photos, greeting cards, journals, school records, bills, certificates and daytimers I managed to cobble together enough information for each year. Then came the online creation of the album. The placement of the photos. How many for each page? What order? The fact that there needs to be the same number for each year…madness.

I should NEVER attempt things like this because I cannot control myself and make a book with a few photos and some fun memories. No. It has to be an encyclopedic reference with consistency in both photo number and subject, as well as text and ‘talking points.’ I didn’t keep track of the hours because it would be terrifying and I’m supposed to be looking for contract work and doing the taxes and vacuuming the dog. This folks is a classic example of the ‘hyperfocus’ you experience if you have ADHD and no amount of medication will take that away from me. I like to think of it as an unexplored gift that needs a little harnessing and direction.


Anyway, I finally finished it. Sadly you cannot see it because the file is far too large and it cannot be downloaded or uploaded or accessed from anywhere. Though here it is just in case you want to try.

Fast forward. It’s now October and grad seems like a lifetime ago. My obsession with this album precluded the publication of the adulting book I mentioned in a previous post. Though I did write it. Frantically, every night while I was in New York in August after Karis went home to the model apartment by 10pm. Procrastination is also a symptom of ADHD in case you’re keeping track. I brought all my notes because, of course, the book was almost written, just not online in any sort of publishing program. So I hand-wrote the adulting book. The whole thing. I think this was as much to help her as to help calm the incessant voice inside me listing all the things I have not yet told her. I was channeling all those monks that copied out books by hand before Gutenberg got it together with the printing press. I think their work may have been a tad more formal and less manic than mine though. It was a good visual though that kept me going whilst I laboured on the 15th floor of the Lexington Hotel.

The book is divided into sections with stick-on page dividers and employs the use of highlighters, coloured pencils and mind maps. The contents are somewhat tailored to Karis and her life as a model living in a model apartment but some chapters would be applicable to anyone. Here’s a very brief outline…but of course I can’t really remember all the stuff I wrote. I’m thinking of publishing it when she brings it home at Christmas…though I’m sure I’ll re-read it and think it’s terrible.

  • Finance: ATM secrets, online banking, the mysteries of foreign exchange and the difference between a charge card and a credit card.
  • Travel: don’t lose US visa, email important docs to yourself, take Redoxin before you go and wipe down your seat and tray table with disinfectant wipes.
  • Health & Wellness: sleep, drink green tea & water with lemon, wash your hands,use oil of oregano & sunscreen, get exercise and fresh air daily.
  • Nutrition: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Eat mainly vegetables, one raw with each meal, limit sugar but have treats, 80% compliance.
  • Recipes and food ideas: hummus, fish, salad with a protein, soups without cream, eggs, coconut oil, sushi, cottage cheese with fruit or vegetables, tuna.
  • Etiquette: remember names, say thank you, acknowledge help and kindness, apologize sincerely, listen respectfully.
  • Cleaning (communal living): clean up after yourself in the kitchen and bathroom, hang towels and clothes, rinse spit out of sink, flush toilet and take out the garbage.
  • Relationships: avoid gossip, keep your word, cheer others’ success, be kind, talk about ideas not people, speak words that are only kind or helpful.
  • Laundry: follow directions on tags, separate colours, use cold water with appropriate detergent, beware of bleach, if in doubt, ask Mimi.
  • Shopping:
    • FOOD: don’t overbuy as you travel often, avoid processed food (expensive and unhealthy), think of a meal before you shop.
    • TOILETRIES: try Saks off 5th or Marshall’s first as they have great stuff at affordable prices.
    • CLOTHING: see above…don’t overbuy as you have to carry everything everywhere you go, buy quality and make sure it hangs well.
  • Beauty: take off your makeup every night, moisturize, use sunscreen.
  • Time Management: find a tool that works, make time for big items, prioritize daily goals, schedule important items, review tasks weekly to make sure you’re on track.
  • Business: understand how different markets work, keep track of charges and expenses, get statements from each agency.
  • Exercise: find exercises you enjoy, commit to a daily activity, work on core stability regularly, stretch and do yoga.
  • Model Bag: cover-up, band-aids, insoles, allergy pills, snacks and protein bars, Kleenex, tampons, scarf, book, sketchpad, charger plus all the other stuff.
  • Various other chapters that I can’t remember but possibly (in no particular order): Religion, Pets, Vitamins, Interpersonal Relationships, Safety, Transit, What to do if you are sick…..

Stay tuned 😉

The Mozart Effect and Other Mothering Failures

I chose this school because I liked the uniform. Jk.

Don’t you love the uniform? A big deciding factor for me….

As most of you know, the child is graduating and I’m overcome by a feeling of inadequacy as a mother. I’m not ready. I’ve not told her enough to face life on her own. I lament all those lost teaching opportunities that are forever gone to me, all the systems I should have instigated and mundane things I never insisted she do for herself. Why didn’t I give her an allowance and make her record it and save 10% and take her to the bank once a month to deposit it? All those chores I didn’t make her do because she was so busy with homework and dance? How will she function? I don’t think she knows how to clean a toilet unless my mum or one of her friends taught her. I wish I been vigilant with Baby Mozart…maybe she would have been a math genius if I had committed fully to the Mozart Effect? What about all that reading I never forced her to do? All those habits like daily meditation, goal setting, healthy eating, being tidy, flossing daily. Why did I ever let her watch television in the first place? Eat candy? Why did I ever get her a mobile phone? Should I have been doing extra workbooks with her all summer? Would she be a different person if I had?

It’s funny when they’re born and you have all these ideas of how you’re going to be a parent and how your child is going to respond. You have this illusion that if you do everything right, your child will do well, be well and have a happy and successful life. I made my own baby food, used natural detergent, breast-fed as long as possible, did all the baby activities like Gymboree©, Storytime and various mummy playgroups. I didn’t use any medication until she started teething and I had to resort to Tylenol as she was cutting four teeth in a two-week period. Before that I used naturopathic remedies and essential oils. Seriously. (N.B. I was trained in aromatherapy…don’t try this at home unless you really know what you’re doing.) I read to her all the time and didn’t allow TV or videos until she was three. There was no juice or candy allowed. Her clothes always matched. We listened to music—even the dreaded Baby Mozart, thought not every day. We played with educational toys and spent time in nature. She went to play-based preschool and on to private school—one that I chose (after extensive research) because they taught Philosophy and Japanese and had a great uniform.

However, despite my best efforts to create a little girl in my graven image but better, Karis grew up to be herself and not really like me. Just as they’re meant to do. I’m thankful she’s not like me for many reasons as I actually learn things from her (don’t tell her that as she’ll never let me forget it). Our kids are actually people, with their own ideas, wants, needs, desires and aspirations and there’s not really much you can do about it. Except celebrate, as that’s what they’re supposed to do. If you’ve helped create a thinking and conscious being, I think that’s probably a good thing; however, this whole parenting gig is a constant learning process and I’ve recently had a somewhat terrifying epiphany that it actually never ends. I think I subconsciously assumed that once I’d got her this far, the universe would take over and she’d magically become an adult and we’d have dinner parties, lunches and go to the spa once in a while but that overwhelming terror/love you feel for your offspring would mellow and become less intense. It appears that that will not be the case as I’ve realized my precious child will be going out in the world, without me to protect her, to grow up and become an adult. She’ll be living her life and I will be wondering where she is, who she’s with and when she’s going to be home. But she’ll be living in another country so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. I have actually become my father. I totally understand him now. I know why he didn’t sleep until I got home, even if I was in my 20s and had lived alone in a foreign country. It didn’t matter because I was under HIS roof and he went right back into dad mode as soon as he was given the opportunity. He used to give me $20 every time I left the house…I managed to train him out of this by the time I was 27. And married. I think he was relieved to pass me off to Chris so someone else could worry. Though I don’t think that stopped him. Until I had Karis, then he worried about her too. It’s an Italian thing. Don’t be thinking my mum didn’t worry. She did, but she’s much more practical and tended to get stuff done instead of being paralyzed by the unending and unresolvable existential angst over children that can’t be controlled anyway. The fact remains, I did survive. Learned stuff. Grew up and became a relatively productive adult, I’m sure despite my parents initial misgivings that I was a complete moron.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My sense of impending doom is complicated by the fact that I’ve also realized that I haven’t taught Karis anything that is remotely useful. Neither, for that matter, has her education, but that is another story. All those little things that I simply do, that I haven’t told her about:
♥ How to buy a fresh avocado.
♥ How to suck the air out of freezer bags so your food stays fresh.
♥ Buying toilet paper when it’s on sale.
♥ Always pay your credit card on time.
♥ Don’t buy fish if it’s smelly.
♥ How to fold a fitted sheet (just mastered that recently myself).
♥ Choosing clothes that hang well.
♥ Finding meaning in our cold cruel world.
♥ Appreciating art (maybe I’ve done that one just a little).
♥ How much it really costs to have a pet.
♥ How to arrange food on plates.

This has caused me a lot of anxiety as I’m constantly adding items to the ongoing mental list of Things-I-Need-to-Tell-Karis-Before-She-Graduates-and-Moves-to- New- York. Of course, I then forget what’s on this list which causes me more anxiety. I’ve decided to channel this free-floating anxiety of mine into something useful, productive and tangible.

Earlier this year I was wondering aimlessly around Park Royal looking for Christmas gifts and I found myself in Urban Outfitters. An establishment I no longer support since I found out that they’ve been accused of stealing designs from small independent artists but anyway, they had this book called Adulting: How to be a Grownup in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown. This is a GREAT book and a GREAT IDEA for a book. I wish I had this book when I was a young adult. I’ve decided to write my own version of this book for my child. Seeing as she doesn’t like reading, I’m sure it’s an exercise in futility, but it’ll make me feel better. Maybe I’ll do an audiobook…though I suspect this is actually about me anyway and she’ll be fine with, or without, the book 😉

PS. My one real regret: I wish I had bought a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Place’s You’ll Go and have every teacher, coach and significant person sign it so I could give it to her at grad as a tangible record of her life thus far. I have to say, that endeavour would be more about me as it would indicate a level of pre-planning and organization that I aspire to even today and she’s not really into that kind of thing anyway. I did start writing letters to her on every birthday and keeping them in a box but I lost interest. Maybe I can fake it….

Any Mum Will Do: Communal Child Rearing

A great subtitle for this post would be Any Mum Will Do: And Don’t Think You’re Going to Get Away With Anything Ever Again Because One of Us Will See You. Maybe Not Today, Maybe Not Tomorrow, But Someday. And You Will Be Found Out. Welcome to the Tribe. Communal Child Raising 101.

My first tribe actually started when I found three kindred spirits at Chelsea House Preschool who did NOT talk about how smart their kids were, how early they walked, what their Apgar score was and what percentile they were in (for anything). The four of us have remained friends ever since and try to get together 2-3 times a year. We go for sushi at Zen at 7pm and sit in the little room until there’s no one left in the restaurant and we feel guilty and leave. Same restaurant. Same time. We’ve been through a lot collectively: three private schools (two co-ed, one boys only); French Immersion, public school, home-schooling, illness, jobs, going back to school, death, family stuff and a whole lot more. And to perfectly cap off the end of an era, Karis has seen all her preschool buddies recently—two at the Collingwood prom and one through a mutual friend. Everyone is all grown up now. How. Did. This. Happen.

Communal Child Rearing truly started in earnest in the early days at Mulgrave. When the kids started kindergarten the tribe started to form. We had the ‘new mums coffee events’ and of course we all went so our children would be socially accepted and make friends and that we would be part of the tribe. Shades of the Upper East Side (see previous blog post). Actually it wasn’t nearly such a tough crowd and I can happily say that I still count these ladies as my nearest and dearest. At first, we were a pretty big group, but over time it settled out to a more reasonable number with the occasional new member (with particular success from our UK ladies). Though there was that one mum though who would never join us because she was at the school to ‘ensure her children got a good education not make friends with the other parents.’ We took particular pleasure in inviting her to everything we did for years, just to hear her say that. And no, she wasn’t that busy..yep, she had a big family, but she had staff. She was a misplaced Park Avenue-type for sure. She probably thought we were all boozy slackers. Not that that is a bad thing. Or necessarily true…it all depends on your perception.

The kids in our tribe learned how to get along with each other when they realized they had little choice in belonging to this group which became known as the ‘Friend Family’ (thanks Jordan) to distinguish it from the lesser significance and proximity of a mere family friend. We saw each other almost every day. Being in the ‘Friend Family’ meant that you were party to various events whether you liked it or not. Camping trips. Pool parties. Festivals. Birthday parties. Beach outings. Friday afternoons with the mums. It meant that you had a whole bunch of other mothers that you likely didn’t want some of the time because it was impossible to get away with much of anything. If your mum didn’t catch you or find out about a specific transgression, one of us would and it was only a matter of time. On the other hand, there was always a sympathetic ear when your mum didn’t understand you or you needed a different perspective on life. The benefit of having a whole bunch of other mothers is that if you put us all together we were pretty much the prototype for a perfect mum 😉

Truthfully though, we operated well as a tribe and I like to think the kids had optimal care as we all worked to our strengths. We had driving mums. Cooking mums. Snack mums. Shopping mums. Dance mums. Fun mums. Cool mums. Music mums. Exercise mums. Sporty mums. Make-up mums. Stylish mums. Strict mums. Academic mums. Practical mums. Organizing mums. Advice-giving mums. Swimming mums. Trampoline mums. And I add those last two like they’re just as useful because that was me–the swimming and trampoline mum because I was happy to play in the pool and jump on the trampoline for hours. Which sounds useless but let me just give you a practical example. During one of our Mulgrave camping trips, we had left the campground at Bear Creek to recover at Manteo (a lovely resort in Kelowna) for a few days. That particular year, I went with two other mums and their kids. No dads. We renamed our family as the Dixon-Dawson-Beck family and we shared a condo at the resort. Now there are things that must be done, even on holiday, like food shopping (yuck), cooking (double yuk) and laundry; however, these things go much faster when the children are safely occupied elsewhere. Like with me in the pool. It’s much more efficient and I actually enjoyed hanging with the kids. Still do. So between all the pools and all the trampolines and all the late night chats, I’ve had some great times with those kids.

Our tribe had a few truly golden years together. The stock market was good. Most of us didn’t work or did so on our own time. The kids did a lot of the same activities so car-pooling was easy. We had yearly Vegas trips. We went camping together. Stayed at friend’s cabins. We went out for lunch to the Cactus Club twice weekly and out for dinner at least once weekly. We attended concerts, galas and charity events. We celebrated any and all birthdays. Everyone got gifts. Copious amounts of champagne was had by all. It was truly the best of times and I am eternally grateful that we were all able to share such an amazing era.

Of course, time marches on and things change. Kids move schools and grow up. Marriages end. People get jobs. We’ve been through divorce, death, illness and the many assorted and sundry heartaches that go hand-in-hand with raising children and teenagers. However, our tribe is strong. We still celebrate. Marriage. Jobs. Graduation. Pretty much anything. We visit. Hang out. Commiserate. We don’t get to see the kids that often as they have lives and can drive. Basically it’s easier for them to get away from us. Though no matter how old they get I still have huge space in my heart for my beautiful kids of the Friend Family. You know who you are. xox