To my mother on Mother’s Day

My mom lives very far away, and I miss her. We’ve had all kinds of the usual challenging relationship moments that a woman can only experience with her mother, of course, but that doesn’t make me miss her any less.

My mom
This is my mom. She likes fixing things.

I miss her when I relax in the evening with a cup of tea.
I miss her when I want to complain about my stubborn eldest daughter.
I miss her when I want to show her the fun new baby tricks my youngest daughter has this week.
I miss her when I need to just have that one-on-one sort of talks about nothing and everything that you can only have with your mother.
I miss her when I want to rant about things that I don’t have control over but just need to rant at someone who won’t hold it against me.

And I miss her when I realize that for some things, when you’re dealing with your own daughters, the only person you can think of to talk to is your mother, because chances are good she had to deal with something similar from you.

Nothing makes you understand what your mother has been through better than becoming a mother. And while the way she did things might not necessarily be how you would handle the same situation, at least once you’re a mom yourself you start to understand just why she handled it that way. Because sometimes you do what you have to so you can survive the moment with as little fallout as possible. And sometimes you do what you feel is right, even if no one else thinks so, because you are the mom and sometimes you really are right, and everyone else can’t see all the sides that you see. And sometimes you just make mistakes and move on, because dwelling on them doesn’t help anyone, and there are children to raise in the meantime.

At some point you realize that you’re kind of lucky she didn’t just throw up her hands and give up on you, because you know intimately now — no matter how impossible and unmanageable and ridiculous and frustrating things get, there’s no quitting being mom. It’s not like you don’t know that before you have kids, but when you do have them, you understand it.

So I thank my mom for all the usual things you thank a mom for: being there, raising me, teaching me, helping me through stuff, letting me figure stuff out on my own. And I thank her for giving me her best, and for not hiding the hard stuff. I thank her for being real, and being herself, and letting me do the same. Everything she’s done has done more than even I know to make me into the woman — and mother — that I am today. So thanks, mom. I miss you and I love you.

Watching someone become a person…

Lyra walking in Burrard Inlet
Lyra walking in Burrard Inlet

Every parent will tell you when you first have a baby to cherish every moment, because it goes by so quickly. You’ll hear it so many times that you’ll get sick of hearing about it, because you get it already.

Except I don’t think I actually did get it. I do now, or I’m starting to, but I still don’t want to tell new parents what they’ve been told a hundred times already, even if it’s true. It does go by quickly – far more quickly than you realize, until you look at the little person who used to be a baby, and notice that she’s suddenly outgrown those jeans that used to be unimaginably large, and that she’s got tastes and feelings about everything she sees and does, and is entirely willing to tell you all about it when she used to just take it all in without voicing an opinion at all.

It’s the becoming that really intrigues me when I watch Lyra, the similarities with either me or her father, and the differences. She has always been her own person, and it would be hopeless to try and form her into something she isn’t. She likes what she likes, and hates what she hates, and has full-blown emotions that she doesn’t know how to handle yet. We’re all discovering who she is along with her, and it’s probably the most interesting journey I’ve ever been on.

I don’t remember becoming who I was as a child. I remember when I became who I was as an adult – once I was finished school and off in the real world, I spent a long time trying to figure that out. I’d love it if she had a sense of that sooner than I did, and I’ll do my best to help her figure that out, but ultimately she will be who she is and will keep becoming herself forever.

Just like I am.

Lyra is almost three now and is becoming a feisty, independent, imaginative, mischievous imp. Embedded in that, though, she still considers most things very seriously before she acts, and is generous and empathetic for a 2.5-year-old.

I’m her mother; I’m bound to think the world of her, so of course I believe that she’s pretty much awesome. Every day I get to spend with her, discovering the world’s simplest complexities, feels like the best day yet, just like every age she reaches feels like the best age she’s ever been.

I don’t understand how it can be like this, but watching her become a person just keeps getting better and better. I can’t imagine it being better than it is now; but I felt the same way six months ago, a year ago, two years ago, and it kept getting better.

Soon enough she will turn three, and I’ll marvel at how fast the time has gone by since the sunny summer morning Adam and I walked to the hospital for her birth day. Newborn became baby became toddler became pre-schooler, and every second of it is full of wonder – for her and for me. It can’t possibly get any better.

And every time I say it can’t possibly get any better, it does.

Post-vacation dark thoughts

I enjoy riding the commuter train most of the time. It’s quiet and smooth and the temperature is well regulated, unlike buses. It’s also the only time I spend just sitting and thinking. Life is too busy for quiet thinking time lately.

I have a lot on my mind tonight, most of it a little morbid and unsettling. My trip to Las Vegas, which I’ll talk about later, triggered some unhappy thoughts and unsubstantiated worries about how it would feel if something happened to Lyra or Adam or both while I was away, or how they would have to cope if anything happened to me. Either concept breaks my heart and makes my stomach flip with an instinctive anxiety that I know is irrational. If something happened, I suppose we would cope with it, because that’s what we do. But it hurts every time I think of it.

Now, that doesn’t mean my whole vacation was spent worried and anxious – I had a lot of fun. But these random bouts of fear hit me occasionally in my day-to-day life more often than I want to admit. Maybe it’s a normal part of being a mother – this isn’t something I remember being a problem for me before I had Lyra. I don’t really know.

What I can say with some certainty is that there are things happening around me in the lives of friends that are making me more aware of these fears, and perhaps making me feel the anxiety more deeply than I normally would, and the idea of anything happening to Lyra, Adam or me terrifies me.

But no one can see the future, so I bury the random fears and get on with living my life. I guess that’s what we all do… keep on living and deal with things as they happen. Some days it’s easier than others.

I miss writing…

I’ve found that I don’t write much anymore not because I haven’t got the time, (I have plenty of downtime where I could just be writing things) but because when I do find myself with nothing to do, I want to just do nothing. My busy time is busier than it used to be, what with chasing a toddler around and all the associated tasks that come with being a mom. I fit a lot of work into what used to be empty time. At least I can’t claim boredom nearly as often as I used to.

I looked back at my early entries here last week, when I realized that I had (once again) missed the anniversary of creating this space. You’d think I would remember that I made my lj on May the 4th, but I don’t. My Livejournal is now ten years old. I don’t update as often, and I don’t comment as much on other peoples updates, although I’m still reading them. Fewer and fewer people write here, but that’s the nature of these communities… they flare up for a while and then slowly drop off. The same goes for offline communities; eventually everyone moves on or gets replaced by other people. Things change. I’m glad, though, that my lj isn’t filled with one-line updates anymore… at least Facebook’s good for that.

And now Lyra’s grabbing my hands and pulling them off the keyboard when I try to type. I guess I’m off for the moment. I’ll be back soon. Happy tenth anniversary, my lj.

My sleeping beauty

Sleeping beauty, originally uploaded by Jenny Lee Silver.

She fell asleep in my lap tonight before I could actually put her to bed. I guess it was an eventful day that tired her out… And I just didn’t want to move her for a while.

It’s really incredible that I can just sit here and watch Lyra sleep, and be pretty happy doing so. She looks so peaceful, and I feel like I could make all the noise in the world and she wouldn’t wake up, but I still want to sit here and just… watch her sleep.

I didn’t really get it before — just how it feels to love someone this way. It’s entirely different from anything I’ve ever felt before. I feel physical pain if I think about anything terrible happening to her. My breath catches in my throat if I imagine her getting hurt, and my heart breaks into uncounted millions of shards if I venture into thinking about somehow losing her. It’s a pain I can’t explain to anyone who isn’t a parent, and if you are, then it doesn’t need an explanation. It just is, and I can’t imagine life without her, or that feeling.

Maybe it’s a bit like an elite club, but it’s not that I don’t want people to join — It’s my hope that anyone who wishes to can live this experience, letting us share (even if it’s not spoken aloud) the knowledge that this is a strange, challenging, and ultimately rewarding club to join — the most rewarding and challenging experience of my life.

So many people who were already in the club told me that I wouldn’t get it until I was there. I knew they were right then; now I know just how right they were, and exactly what they meant.

I can’t explain it… if you know what I’m talking about, then maybe someday we’ll have a cup of tea and talk about it, but I really don’t know that there’s much to say… it just is. You know what I mean.

So good night my sleeping beauty, I’ll miss you while you’re gone, and I’ll be so happy to see you in the morning — and you won’t understand what I mean until you grow up and maybe have a baby of your own.

Thank you for making me your mom.

Weekly bike ride with Lyra

I’ve just returned from what I hope will be a weekly (or near-weekly) bike ride with Lyra in the Lower Seymour Conservation Forest. It was awesome – she fell asleep for the first half of the ride, which was fine. We got up near Rice Lake, where she woke up and we found a group of moms and their toddlers (the same age as Lyra) hanging out in a pretty gazebo (I was happy to not face the Gazebo alone.) She spent some time playing with the other kids and their toys, and I sat on a bench and introduced myself to the other moms. Mostly I just felt out of place though… I never did do well in so-called normal groups of women talking about mom things.

Otherwise, though, we have a lovely bike ride through the woods. I’m so tempted to go back and do it tomorrow, or maybe Sunday while Adam’s riding Fromme. Perhaps we can work it out so I drop him off and head over to the LSCR with Lyra. Hmm, that might just work.

I feel awesome, and the weather was gorgeous, and the route I took was just fantastic. I can’t wait to get out there and do it again.

You can see our route and speed and all that fun stuff because I tracked it all with my phone.

Fitness in the world of mommyhood

SpokesLet me be honest with you – I am terrible at fitness. I have been for as long as I can remember. I hated gym class in public & high school. I have had gym memberships on more than one occasion and actually gone to the gym twice at most, each time. I decided to take up running and did it once (after buying pricey running shoes!) There is a distinct lack of fitness regimen in my life.

It’s not that I’m in terrible shape; I’m not. Neither am I in good shape. I have weirdness in my left knee & hip that makes it hard to crouch or climb stairs at times. I can’t run unless my life depends on it. I get winded if I climb a lot of stairs. And if you go by general standards of female shape and body, I have more weight on me than is ideal. I suppose that makes me just about average.

It’s in my nature, however, to compare myself to everyone around me. I compare myself when I’m riding my bike to the people who ride past me effortlessly on the uphill, and feel like I’m falling short. I follow it up with reasons why I’m not – at least I’m ON my bike, and I’m doing a near 15k ride each way to get to and from work, up and down mountains and bridges, and hey, I haven’t actually been bike commuting in two years and they’re doing it way more often, and some of them are crazy roadies and I’ll never keep up with them even if I want to. But all of these thoughts come after the fact, and while they help, the initial feeling of losing some sort of competition in my head (stupid competitive head) is not really a good one.

I’ve been realizing for the past year or two (not including pregnancy time) that I am quite simply thinner in my mind than I actually am. I think you’re supposed to feel the opposite, according to what all the magazines say anyhow, but that’s not for me. I assume I’m pretty slim, and then see a photo of myself and think “holy crap I’m SO much bigger than I think I am!” On top of that, I’m realizing that in my general age group among the other women at work (and I work with a lot of women) I’m on the larger scale. It is very unsettling to think you’re one size and realize that you’re not – even when you think you’re thin.

Earlier in the spring I signed up to do core conditioning clinics with a group of women, specifically designed to condition you for mountain biking. I actually rather enjoyed it, and stuck with it I think because it was a class format that a friend was also taking, and I had paid to go to the class, which commits me to going on two levels. You might think that paying for a gym membership would provide the same commitment, but it really doesn’t. At any rate, this wasn’t about weight loss, it was about strengthening and conditioning. And it was good, but I haven’t lost weight.

I considered a mommy boot camp type thing, and even signed up for one, but it was cancelled before it even began. After that I realized that a boot camp is probably not for me anyway – I don’t like exercising, and turning it into some sort of military training thing just bothers me on so many levels.

Those conditioning clinics are still happening, but with the car purchase we’re not in any place for me to rejoin them. It’s possible in a few months we’ll work out how to fit it in, but right now it’s not an option. So I’ve decided in the meantime that my only real option for cardio fitness is the biking to and from work, which I restarted doing this week.

On Monday I rode to work, then went downtown on my bike at lunchtime, then back to work, and then did a partial ride home (combined with transit.) It felt good, and I was exhausted. Yesterday I took transit as usual. Today I rode again, this time managing to go both to and from work. It felt great, and wasn’t as hard as on Monday. It’s amazing how fast you acclimatize to that kind of exertion.

My ride isn’t really a short one. I measured it out once on google maps, and it came to about 14.5 km one way. There is uphill and downhill in both directions, although it’s slightly more downhill on the way there, and thus slightly more uphill on the way home. It takes me just under an hour to do the ride at the moment – probably about 45 – 50 minutes.

This means I’m doing an hour and a half of cardio on a bike every time I ride. I have no idea if this will help me lose weight. I’m not entirely certain that losing weight is what I want to do – people keep telling me I look like I’ve lost weight, but I haven’t actually lost a pound in about 6 months now. My shape has definitely changed since before the pregnancy, and I’m down to my pre-pregnancy weight without really having to work at it (probably because of breastfeeding, but who knows).

So without cash to join a class, I’m hoping that my riding to and from work can be some sort of fitness regimen. If I lose weight, that would be awesome. If I tone up and look better, that would also rock. If I lose a size, that would be nice too. But really, what I want is to be able to play with Lyra and keep up with her at least a bit. She’s an active little monkey, and I don’t want to be a couch potato for her life. The biking will help, I just hope it’s enough. I don’t have the money (or, to be honest, want to spare any more time away from Lyra) to get a personal trainer or join hardcore classes. Plus, I don’t wanna.

Except that part of my brain that’s comparing me to everyone else and saying I fall short. I’ll just continue telling that part to shut the hell up.

On being mom

I watch my daughter sleeping, just like all the clichés say you will. I can’t help it – I’m still so enamoured with her that I can’t imagine ever being tired of looking at her. Every time I watch her sleep I marvel over how much bigger she is than she used to be – and every time, she’s grown. I don’t really remember what it was like when she was smaller. It’s hard to believe sometimes that this little girl has ever been any size other than what she is now, and then I look at her again and she’s so much bigger than I expect her to be.

Someone asked me the other day if I feel as though I’ve changed with motherhood. I don’t feel like I’ve changed. I feel a bit like I’ve grown into myself, like I’m somehow more myself than I used to be, and that feels good to me. I’m still who I was, just more focussed, and more complete. Was I incomplete before? I can’t remember, but that’s partly because I can’t imagine life without Lyra in it anymore.

It’s amazing to me how absolutely in love with this little girl I really am. Sometimes when I look at her face I can see the child she’s going to be – like I can see shadows of who she’ll grow into overlaid on her sweet little face. I can see them especially when she’s sleeping, or when she’s figuring things out, all lost in thought and serious.

I think about the issues everyone I know has with their parents, and like everyone else, I’m sure, hope desperately that the issues we will have someday won’t be too painful. I try not to fool myself into thinking they won’t exist… I’m pretty sure even the best mother/daughter relationships have their own quirks and problems. They will exist. I will work to try and keep them to a reasonably sane level. We’ll see how that goes.

Occasionally I get hit with a wave of irrational or semi-rational fear, like when I’m driving somewhere and imagine suddenly a car coming from nowhere and smashing into me, or having to avoid something and driving off the road, or walking across the street at the wrong time even and getting run down (apparently I have an irrational fear of cars.) It’s practically debilitating for a split second while my brain runs through scenarios of me being killed and not being around to take care of Lyra, or see her grow up; and scenarios where I lose her somehow. The thoughts are physically painful to me, for just a moment or two until I get a better grasp on my subconscious and beat it into submission.

Am I a good mother? The perfectionist in me likes to ramble in my head about what I should be doing that I’m not, and what I should be doing better. That part of me compares myself to other moms, and Lyra to other babies. The realist in me knows that I can’t attain perfection, that I often hold myself up to unrealistic standards that I would never impose on any other human being. I’m not a bad mother. I’m willing to admit, on some days, that I might even be a good mother. I’m being myself, and being a mom… and it’s actually a lot of fun.

And no, I am not looking for reassurances from people that I’m doing fine. I know I am – Lyra is happy and healthy and awesome, and that’s the best indicator I’ve got.