tripping the life unbalanced

Monday, November 20, 2006

insane in the brain

Does anyone else have these kind of family days?

First, you start off with one day of the week which you've proclaimed is "family" day. That means a day full of activities that is just for you and yours. A day full of good intentions and sunny ideas and a belly full of giggles and fulfillment. Maybe a trip to the zoo, maybe a day inside doing puzzles together. Regardless of what the activity is, this is supposed to be a day just to spend time together. You know, like all the experts say. "Spend time together", the parenting magazines tell us. No one ever mentions how truly TRULY hard this can be. At least for my family.

What does family day look like at my house, you ask? Oh, let's see: sleep deprived parents who have used up all their goodwill and extra energy during the work week; a broken-down car that fucking breaks down every fucking week; a preschooler hopped up on sugar and boredom; an endlessly messy and chaotic house; and some over-emphasized and under-planned event, like say the Santa Claus parade this past weekend in Toronto.

Yes, we made it to the parade. Well, Alice and I did. Matt was stuck in traffic and the only precious "family" time we had during that event was an awesome cell phone conversation:

Me: where are you?? You are missing the parade.

Him: yeah, well, I'm stuck in traffic. STUCK STUCK STUCK. What can I do about that?

Me: well what do you want me to tell you? (frustrated at having no control over this situation, ultimately which isn't really his fault. But DAMMIT did he have to go to Home Depot just before the parade??)

Him: what I WANT you to tell me is that it's OK I'm missing the parade, what I WANT you to tell me is that you aren't going to nag me about this for years to come. what I WANT you...

Me: click. Hang up.

And then, looking down at my daughter's blissful expression, totally unaware of her parents' insanity, as my own personal hell goes by on a float:

We ultimately made up and tried to salvage the rest of the day, but the pressure of making this one day a week really count is driving me bananas. The rest of the week we cope and tread water, pinning all of our hopes on that fateful "family" day. So when we awake to the reality of Sunday morning which is cleaning and meals all over again, I think we feel cheated by it. I admit it, I want the dream of family day. The anticipated satisfaction we could all have from spending time together. When, in reality, we could be just as happy spending alone time in separate rooms of the house.

Monday, November 13, 2006

watching time fly

Matt and I have always intended for Alice to have a sibling. Intended being the operative word here. As in, part of a very general conversation when we first thought about kids. As in: siblings? Of course! Of course we want more than one child. Of course we want our kid(s) to have a partner to joke with, conspire with, join forces with against us as we grow old. Of course.

Then we had one child. And the conversation drastically changed. Suddenly the thought of another child makes me break out in a sweat, stomach turning with anxiety.

It seems many across the blogosphere are also talking about the possibility of a second child. It's tricky, this contemplation of the second child. With the first you have the gift of ignorance, the unknowing of sleep deprivation and loss of freedom. You are not yet aware of how deep your rage and resentment can go. And how much your relationships can change.

It's all this that holds me back.

I get asked all the time whether I am thinking about a second child. The short answer: yes. Yes we are thinking about it. Yes we would like Alice to have a sibling. Yes, oh yes. But it's so much more complicated than a simple answer. It's a loaded answer, because it's full of doubt and fear and the unwillingness to jump headfirst into the unknown again. Because I have seen this unknown, and I feel like I am still coming out of it.

And so I bide my time, shrugging my shoulders at the passing time. Always aware that Alice turns four in March and my body gets older.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to see a new family of four. Our friends R. and I. held a welcoming party for their new baby. It was a lovely afternoon, full of giggling preschoolers and tired but laughing parents. Our friends' first child is much like Alice in temperament and energy, and I was curious to know what it was REALLY like - having two kids instead of one. I asked the new-again mom straight-up: how is it? And she said "you know, in all honesty, it's not as bad as I thought it would be". We talked about the challenges of experiencing sleep deprivation all over again, this time with a 3 year old running around, and something she said very much resonated with me. "The hard time, though, it passes. Eventually, it gets better." And she's right. The first months do end, and the newborn gets older. It is not a finite experience. They get older, sleep gets easier, and then suddenly they are chatting with you at the dinner table about why cats don't have ankles.

We can do this. We can do this.

So what am I so afraid of?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

oh happy day

Thanks, dear internets, for all of your kind words after my last entry. I was feeling down and out and away from the world. But, as always, this crazy worldwideweb thingamajig came through.

AND HEY YOU AMERICANS - congrats on your recent breakup! I know it's been awhile since you've had some good news, so let me celebrate with you. Scarbie's coming over for some pizza and giggles and I promise we will raise a glass in spirit.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

god, give me some space

I have no awesome title for this entry. I'm tired and spent and FED UP with being a mommy today. It's one of those days where I wish I could lock myself in a room by myself for a week and get away from all the poking fingers and the million "Mommmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeee"s that seem to be thrown my way this weekend. I love her, I really do, but crap I need some space. Many tantrums this weekend and a whole bunch of attitude = a very pissed off me. I got home from grocery shopping this afternoon and literally pushed the child at her dad, locked myself in the kitchen, and ate half a giant bag of chips in about 1 minute. Just to do something, ANYTHING, that was just mine. After stuffing my face I looked around at the piles of grocery bags and incredibly messy kitchen, and knew I had another fucking hour of cleaning and dinner making to do. And I cried. I cried so hard for all the hours I seem to spend these days cleaning or cooking or pretend playing or climbing up and down the damn basement stairs to do yet another load of laundry or reading Green Eggs And Ham or battling the ego of a stubborn 3 year old. When I all really want to be doing is reading or taking a hot bath.

Yep, a selfish entry. All about me, whine and more whine. But I needed it. Because if I'm not on here writing my way out of the craziness and anger, I'll be taking it out on my family. And so if you read all that, thanks for listening.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thinking Crime: Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn

I'm about to divulge a great secret of mine. Not many people know this (or perhaps really care to know this), and I've tried to keep it hidden for some time. But now I feel it must come out. It's time.


I sometimes read crime fiction.


Ok, ok. Not only do I sometimes read it, I also sometimes truly love it. Especially good crime novels, the ones that are more psychologically thrilling with complicated characters than the ones featuring the obvious and predictable killers. Most of the crime fiction I like happens to be written by women, who happen to write some very excellent, not exactly likeable and usually arrogant, female characters. For example, I'm a fan of Minette Walters and Denise Mina and Lynda Laplante (although with the latter I actually prefer her television scripts to her novels). Earlier this year, I stumbled upon another female crime writer who was newish to the genre. This writer was not exactly being branded as a crime writer but rather as a fiction novelist. A fine line, at times, in the press machine. It was Kate Atkinson, and the book was Case Histories. Although the novel did feature a murder and a search for a killer, it was a much bigger story about family dysfunction and intricate character studies. I was hooked from the first chapter.

I recently had the pleasure of reading Atkinson's follow-up novel - One Good Turn - and have felt the same excitement as I did with Case Histories. While I do admit to loving certain crime novels, I find so many of them weak in character and bankrupt of actual story. Blah blah blah here's a murder, blah blah blah there' s a romance, and blah blah blah here's the murder resolved. It can be so unsatisfying. In Atkinson's novels, however, it's all about the characters and their stories. She uses a multitude of characters' points of view to tell the story, and as it unravels you find yourself deeper and deeper in the psychology of the plot. The murder is just a backdrop, another character almost. It is the drama that surrounds the murder - with all of its finger-pointing at different characters' weaknesses and vulnerabilities that drives this novel.

It seems to be unsavoury in some literary circles to give accolades to crime fiction. Like chicklit, it can be banished to the dusty shelf of all books not worthy of a gold sticker from the likes of Pulitzer or Orange. But I think a novel like ONE GOOD TURN is difficult for those critics, as it straddles the camps of both crime novel and literary fiction. And any author who can turn a pigeon-holed genre on its head has my respect.

See for yourself and let me know what you think.