Sunday, 18 December 2016

They Don't Make Them Like They Used To...

I was born to a farming family in small town Saskatchewan. I grew up in a 'traditional' home...My mom stayed at home, my Dad was happily married to her and his farming business, but probably the farm got more of his time. Us kids had a good life, there was everything we needed, enough of the basics to go around and bit more, there was love, and a gigantic ice rink every winter.

For better or worse, this was the life I left behind when I moved to the city to attend university. As one does, I met people, I traveled the world for a few years, and eventually married a good man. During this time, I often thought fondly of my parents—of how hard they worked, how generous they were, and of what an amazing family they built. More often than not, I came to the conclusion that 'they just didn't make people like that anymore.' Now, you should know that my parents not only had 16 children and a farm but they also worked tirelessly to better the community we lived in. To this day, what they accomplished in their lives seems impossible to me. 

My mom passed away when I was twelve, and I have never thought of her more often than I do now that I have my own children. I remember her to be calm, wise, and unfailingly kind. Perhaps those are memories tinted with rose-coloured glasses and god knows she's not here to set the record straight, but I'm sure I'm not entirely wrong. Recently, I was describing her to a friend who'd never had the chance to meet her and in my description I chose the word 'tireless' and again used the phrase, 'they just don't make people like that anymore.' Time and again, especially as a mom, I find myself wondering what Mom would have to say about this or that, but if she'd heard me utter those words—tireless, they don't make people like that anymore—I have a pretty good idea what she would say...

She would probably call me a 'Dummkopf,' and say something like... Of course they make em like they used to! Do you think you're any different than me? You think I was 'tireless' raising 16 kids? There's a better word for that....Tiresome. Bleeding tiresome. (except she wouldn't swear, because she never swore, But maybe she did when we were out of earshot). She'd probably tell me she got frustrated with needy kids at her legs during the supper hour, insurmountable laundry, people in the community that were difficult to work with, a marriage that required energy she lacked, and exhausted of working a thankless job.

Except of course, she wouldn't have said any of that because she knew I would figure it out.

After all, when she was a young lady, she probably thought fondly of her own parents who raised their own brood before there were even hospitals or electricity. Perhaps she counted herself lucky for the modern world in which she lived that offered her opportunities and luxuries not afforded to her own mother, and marveled that they just didn't make people like that anymore. But they did—they made her—and maybe they still do.

Perhaps after years of seeing a world my mother never got to see, getting an education that she could only have dreamed of, of working jobs that wouldn't have been available to her, knowing comforts beyond her wildest dreams, its been easy to write her off as a woman of a different time, a legend, a dying breed, the likes of which they don't make anymore. But I can see that for the cop out that it is. I'm sure if I could ask her the question that I have always wanted to ask—How did you do it, Mom?—she would just say she did her best with what time and fate dealt her. And of course, no less should be expected me. After all, when I take a step back from my own life of managing our busy family schedule, sharing my wonderful husband and marriage with a business he created, and even as I look out onto my backyard ice rink, I know we are not that different.

We will never be our parents, for better or worse, but surely they have all taught us something--whether that be lessons of unfailing patience and love or that we want to be nothing like them or anything in between. Whatever those lessons, it seems as you age, you realize just how much you share in the same humanity.    

Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas--Are Too Many Good Ideas Getting in the Way of the Main Idea?

A bake sale for charity is a good idea. Parents being more involved at school is a good idea. Sponsoring a child through World Vision is a great idea. Christmas parties are good—the work party, the kids party, the work-kids party, the neighbor’s party—they are all great fun. Attending a steak night to raise money for Sally’s volunteer visit to an orphanage is a Peru, well, who can say no to that? Buying poinsettia’s from a school fundraiser only makes sense. Putting up Christmas decorations is a must. Getting a gift card for that helpful neighbor is the least you can do. Volunteering to help with the church Christmas concert seemed like a good idea at the time. A Tim Horton’s gift certificate for hard-working teachers, bus drivers, dance instructors, and sitters is a simple way to show your appreciation for the work they do all year. Setting a puzzle with your kids is a good idea. Reading EVERYDAY with them is a sure way to ensure their lifelong success--so is getting outdoors, remembering to take Vitamin D, and getting enough exercise. Hitting up an AWESOME Christmas sale is a smart way to save a bit of dough at a spendy time of year. Attending work everyday is a good idea, and while you’re there, why not organize a secret Santa exchange?! Not missing the kids’ dance classes, gymnastics, or piano recitals is a good idea. Attending my yoga class is a lifeline. Organizing the house makes everything else run a little smoother. Cooking a healthy meal is a good idea. So is sitting down and eating it while finding out about your kids’ day. A Christmas baking exchange is a good idea. Little O’s special school holiday charity event is so thoughtful! Delivering presents as a family to the local food bank is good idea. Cuddling up with a Christmas movie is a great idea. Writing Christmas cards is a great idea…

But you know what? Doing all of these things in one month? That is a BAD idea.

You know what the problem is with this world sometimes? TOO MANY GOOD IDEAS. With so many things to do that are helpful, philanthropic, fun, progressive, practical, healthy, kind, you name it—it is SO hard to say ‘No!’ Am I mistaken or is the whole point of the Christmas season not to spend some time connecting with dearest of loved ones? Because all these damn ‘good ideas’ are starting to get in the way of that.

The other day my 8 year old son and toddler daughter were crafting together at the kitchen table while I made supper. I was happy for the welcome time to zone out and get some work done while they entertained each other. After about 15 minutes, my son comes running into the room saying, “Mom, Mom, look what I made for Melea!” and he showed me his creation…

10 pages of paper stapled together each with a picture of a different mermaid/princess character of my toddler daughter’s request (ahem, demand) drawn on them in marker. Now this seems like a good enough idea, sweet of him to draw for her, but, honestly, he couldn’t have spent more than a minute on any of those drawings--a book full of half-assed ‘good ideas’ that would hit the recycling bin within a week. I kept this to myself, but I couldn’t help but wish he’d saved the paper and condensed his efforts into a more meaningful, singular creation into which he’d put more time and care! Something worth treasuring.

Poor kid, he comes by it honestly. His quantity over quality efforts are so reflective of my own, especially those I find myself making during the busy lead up to Christmas. Perhaps a singular charitable effort made as a family or community is just as effective (and perhaps more meaningful) than spreading ourselves thin over the 20 charitable opportunities that might present themselves in December. Maybe we need to let someone else have a turn running the Christmas concert or consider the worst case scenario if there is a hiatus with the office secret Santa exchange. Maybe we all need to just spare ourselves the efforts that inevitably end up in our energetic recycle bin, find a place to draw a line and say 'No' to rest of the ‘good ideas’ that come our way. Because it seems to me that if we cram too much into the season, we miss the chance to create much worth treasuring—namely time with the ones we love. Perhaps, all of these good ideas are getting in the way of the main idea?!