Saturday, 9 August 2014

Fine Lines

Yesterday, I had the vastly unpleasant experience of someone stealing my wallet and having a grand old time with my credit cards until I noticed that it was missing. After many, many hours of worrying, and berating myself for not being more attentive, and cleaning up the mess that this inconsiderate person created, I now find myself wondering what I can take away from the experience.

Obviously, my No. 1 learning is, for God's sake, don't keep so much stuff in your wallet! I'm embarrassed that I wasn't smarter or more careful—but to be honest, that's not what's really bothering me.

My parents both considered themselves spiritual but not formally religious people. We didn't go to church, because they had issues with the conflicts (wars, genocide) that organized religion can sometimes cause. I explored a few different paths, visiting different churches with my friends, but none of them felt right to me. Then I went to university and read Nietzsche, and out went any notion that organized religion would be my source of comfort.

But I do believe that everyone has to believe in SOMETHING, so I decided that I would believe in people. People are essentially good, I told myself, and throughout my life, I've found many examples to shore up my argument. So what's really bothering me about this incident is that it's shaken my faith in just how "good" people really are.

Plus, I'm finding myself more preoccupied with an even bigger dilemma: if I don't understand this kind of behaviour, how can I possibly explain it to my kids?

As parents, we invest so much time and energy in teaching our kids to share, to get along, to be nice and to participate actively in our community. Those are undeniably important messages.

But how do we reconcile these messages with the other messages that we also need to convey: that not everyone is nice, good or honourable? That, at some point (and, let's face it, probably at many points) in my kids' lives, someone is going to try to screw them over? That they will sometimes lose out to factors beyond their control. That there are bad people in the world. And that even essentially good people can still make bad decisions that have damaging consequences.

Mostly, I worry about my eldest daughter—the one we call the Arbiter of Justice, since she always lets you know where you stand when you violate one of the "rules" she's learned. Because no matter how smart or pretty she is, and no matter how well she thinks she understands how the world works, sooner or later, someone isn't going to like her. Someone will steal something from her. Someone will violate her trust. Someone will break her heart. And the thought of having to teach her that breaks my heart.

Share...but don't share everything. Help others...but not if it puts you in danger. Be kind...but don't expect everyone to be kind to you.

I want my kids to do what's right. But if I don't understand how people can act the way they do, how can I possibly explain it to them?

We don't live in a world that's black and white; it is so many subtle shades of grey. I want to raise kids who understand how to live—and thrive—in such a world. I just hope I'm equal to the task.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Finding the Moments

This past week, we went on a family vacation to Manitoulin Island to visit my husband's mom and her husband. It was not the most successful trip we've ever taken. 

The drive—which takes six hours on a GOOD day—took an entire extra hour because part of the 400 was closed. My youngest got a GI virus, which she very kindly passed on to me and my mother-in-law. It took us all several days to recover, and then my husband got a cold. The weather was not fantastic—one morning, it felt like October—and being stuck indoors on Manitoulin Island is kind of missing the point. 

By the end of the week, my husband and I had reached the point where we were ready to put the kids back in daycare for a bit, just so we wouldn't have to be CONSTANTLY entertaining them.

I admit it: I was a little pissed off. A whole week of hard-earned vacation, and that's what we get for it?


Here's the thing: when you have kids, you have to look for the moments that make a difference.

Watching my eldest climbing like a mountain goat on the (many) rocks. The sheer joy on her face as she ran in and out of the (very cold) water. The full hour we spent playing Crazy 8s on the kids' picnic table outside. The sweetness of seeing my youngest child interacting with her grandparents. A cold glass (or two) of chardonnay, watching the waves lap against the shore. Letting the battery die in my Blackberry and not checking my work email. Just doing nothing for five minutes.

It wasn't perfect, but what in life is? Especially when you have two growing, changing, demanding and energetic children with you. The thing about kids is, they're always there, 24/7...and while you know this intellectually, you don't really understand it emotionally until you have children of your own.

Life is busy, sticky, messy. Things rarely work out as you've planned. Case in point: my four-year-old, who should be napping right now, is sitting on my lap as I write this blog post.

It's not a perfect life, but it's a good life. As long as you can find the moments.