Sunday, February 22, 2015

That blue-eyed girl

Years ago, before I had kids and before social media and memes of sad Kanye doing stuff found their way into my heart, I remember seeing a story about a woman on death’s door who recorded a series of advice-laden videos for her young daughter. I could never actually bring myself to watch any of them, because, well, death and such, but the story has stuck with me for almost two decades.

Being diagnosed with metastatic cancer when you have daughters creates its own special kind of
panic. I’m not saying it’s worse than contemplating the idea of leaving parents, a spouse or a son behind, there’s just a different urgency to life when a dyed in the wool feminist brings up two new recruits and figures she should be around to introduce them to Angela Davis, Susie Bright and Kathleen Hanna.

I should preclude this precious daughter talk with the admission that I’m an impatient mom. I nag and yell and focus too much on the goal sometimes instead of the process. I’m a proponent of early bedtimes, prioritizing my no-good boyfriend and making them walk to school. I sometimes feel like I’m emulating a fictional farm mother who disciplines as hard as she loves, but alas, there are no goats or slapping screen doors in my life.

I work at being kinder, less yelly and more present in my daughters’ lives, but it only works 60% of the time as I continue to struggle with my identity as a mother. I’m not comfortable with all the over-attentive schmoop and general “well, I never!” that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with motherhood. I’m not letting my daughters watch Last Tango in Paris, but I’m also not down with all the pearl clutching over bad words and Miley Cyrus.  It’s not that I want to be Courtney Love, it’s just that I don’t want to be Elise Keaton.

What’s fer sure is that I love my girls with the fierceness of an Italian momma and the side-eye of an Irish washerwoman. I am what I am and I’m trying to be a decent version of that.

My 10-year old, Stella, is getting to an age where she’s pushing boundaries in a different way. She still needs me, but instead of wanting every scrape or sleep disturbance tended to, she wants to find out what music I listened to as a teenager, whether I think mixing patterns is boss, and what the fuck is going on with her body, like every single day.
Unlike my little troll-like self at 10, she’s a beauty, which terrifies me, because it means I have to go around to the boys in her school telling them she has a Manitou growing on her back so they can tuck their pervy eyes back in their heads. 

A girl needs years of feeling gross so she can come out of the tweens with a sense of humour and a self-reliance that only comes from having to watch Love Boat with your parents on endless Saturday nights.

Stella is well on her way to plowing through life to teenageland, but I am not done with this girl. I have years of explaining why Nickelback exists; what to do when a boy you love cares more about memorizing the dance moves to Lucky Star than imagining you naked; why it’s infinitely more badass to be fight rather than flight but how to pick your brawls with a fast acne-to-weight-to-knuckle size formula I learned while walking along the mean streets of the Victoria waterfront at 2 am.

I watched a movie last night, One Day, that hit me in the gut like only a half-baked screenplay with Paris as one of the backdrops can. It pretty much destroyed my love of the book, but after a 40-something’d up Anne Hathaway was squished by a lorry in London and I got over my initial feeling of triumph over never having to see her little squirrely face again, I realized once again that life is fleeting for everyone and I’ve been shutting off the side of myself that needs to get out of this cranky workaday mother trap and leave a proper legacy for my girls.

This isn’t about planning a set of clever vids with makeup instructions or a collage of supportive mother-daughter images on poster board to show how convinced I am of my own importance. 

It’s doing more of what they love: singing Taylor Swift at the top o’ my lungs, laughing at Frances’s take-no-prisoners cancer jokes, letting Stella pick out my clothes when I travel, talking like a Valley Girl at dinner, bringing them Peppermint tea while they watch dog videos, reading one more page of a book when it’s already super late, going in for an extra, extra long back scratch, and rushing back for just one more kiss before the light goes out.


  1. Your words are such an inspiration! always making me think! love it.

  2. awesome, as usual!! LOVE LOVE LOVE reading your posts! such a knack! love to you all! xo

  3. Can't love it enough! !! When you figure out the 10 yr old girl stuff them feel free to enlighten me on my 10 yr old boy (who is now loving my old metalica! !)

  4. Thank you for this blog! I am sure that Stella will be the inspiration for you in her older years as you are for me. Although, I will admit to some heart palpitations when you were in your teenage years, it is nice to know some of your secrets. I think you managed to keep a lot of stuff to yourself. Your brothers' lives were much more transparent when they were younger!

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