Archive for December, 2010

home again.

on sunday we flew home. there was an hour delay, lots of wriggling on the airplane, some tears, no sleep… but we survived and arrived.

coming home always mixes me up inside. most of the time, when we’re in our ontarian home, it’s okay. we have our family of friends, we have our work, our church community, our routines. we drink our coffee, keep our skype dates with omi & opa, with friends in canada and in germany. we read sandra boynton books, watch episodes of manon, play farm, dance to the glee soundtrack. we prepare our teaching materials, we go to school, to university, to day care.

& yet… when we return here, to the place where i grew up, the place of ice & snow in winter (though it really is awfully mild right now), where my parents live, where there are so many aunts and uncles and cousins, where there are our favourite places to go on dates, our first apartment, a bakery that makes vegan cinnamon buns, a terrible bus system, the windiest corner in canada… this home calls to me, calls to us. & then i get confused again about what i really want. where i want to be. where i want m to grow up.

there are things i really love about the place we live now. i love our community of friends. i love how challenged i am at university. i love the wonderful school where d has found his job. i love the farmers’ market. i love the mildness of the winter. but…

when i watch m being read to on my father’s lap, when i watch my mother chasing m around and around the living room to great squeals of delight, when i spend an evening with my best best friend, this home calls to me in a way that our new home will never be able to.

i am stretching in two directions, pinned down to the place where i was born, pinned down to the place where my son was born, where our lives changed forever. & stretching hurts a little, sometimes a lot, as my heart fills the space between these two places.

but it is true, i think, that going away makes coming back so much sweeter.



so, now what?

so i defended my thesis, tuesday last week. i got what i came for.

last week i also found out i was accepted (fully funded) to the phd program here. exciting! and! crazy! is this one of those situations where i look back and can’t see the hard parts, the tears parts, the prickly parts anymore? is this one of those situations where i will later say, wisely, full of holes, it seemed like a good idea at the time…

i feel like i can say, with some degree of confidence, no, in fact, this is the right thing for me. for my family. it’s true that this isn’t a decision based purely on my intellectual betterment. as if it were that easy. no, actually, i need to earn money, & let’s face it, here is what i am qualified to do: nothing. i’ve heard a lot about transferable skills. okay, fine. i’m a pretty good teacher, but in order for me to teach anywhere (other than in the university system, strangely) i need a teaching certificate. or at the very least, a tesol certification, neither of which i currently have. do you know how much it costs to certify with tesol? in a program that includes in-class time, observation & practicum? the answer is way more than we can afford right now. if i continue with phd studies, the university guarantees a certain amount of funding for the duration of my studies, regardless of whether or not i have scholarship funding from elsewhere.

here is what i am qualified to do: be a student. in fact, i’ve gotten pretty darn good at that. i’ve gotten so good that i can juggle parenthood & studenthood, which works more and less well, depending on the day, depending on deadlines, and how many hours of sleep i have managed to get in relation to how many cups of coffee i can drink.

on the other hand, i am starting the phd because i want to start the phd. this desire to continue studying does not come from a place inside me that says, what the heck else can i do. no, it comes from a place that says, the more i learn, the more i realize i have yet to learn (that place paraphrases some famous philosopher who said something pretty much like that a long time ago). the main reason i am continuing my studies is because i want to learn more. that is what i love most about being a student- throwing myself into a new topic, looking at ideas from different angles, trying to sort out what i think and believe and what i don’t believe and think. i have never studied literature before, not really, and that is a major part of the first two years of this program. part of me is scared shitless about that, since the study of literature is (almost) uncharted territory for me, limited really to grade twelve english class and pickpickpicking apart books that had perfectly good stories, or else beatbeatbeating books that were dead on the ground. another part of me is really excited, to stretch my thinking, to grow in my understanding of the world, at least in some small way. maybe i will even come to like philosophy…

hm. let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

i’m not ready to leave the university yet, because i’m not convinced i have learned everything here that i came to learn, even though i wrote a pretty long paper already & learned lots of stuff while doing that. i marvel at how far i’ve come, in my time here, & realize that i have so so far left to go. but i’m ready. i’m ready for that now.

that kind of mother.

recently i was having a conversation with someone who currently does not have any children. “when i have kids, i’ll stay home with them,” this person said. “and i’ll bake fresh cookies every day.”

inside of myself, i guffawed. what do you know? i thought to myself. i struggle to get the carpet¬†vacuumed¬†during a day at home with m, never mind baking. i spend my time playing with him, reading stories, playing make-believe, & many days the peanut butter is still standing on the kitchen table when it’s time to make dinner.

it really got me thinking, though, about all the unrealistic expectations i had of myself, of motherhood, when i was pregnant and a new mum. there were so many things i snootily vowed to myself that i would never do… how reality changes things. here are my top 5, in no particular order.

1. i will never use anything other than cloth diapers after we get through the disposables we received as gifts. ha. right. for a while we did cloth-diaper most of the time, but now, we have to go to the laundromat to wash them, which just isn’t that practical, not to mention the fact that m goes to daycare now, & they sure as heck don’t want to deal with rinsing poop out of a messy diaper. so there goes that one.

2. i will never co-sleep. “there goes your marriage,” a friend of mine recently said when the issue of co-sleeping came up. well, the truth is that if m didn’t sleep in bed with us, none of us would ever get any sleep at all. i need sleep. it’s just a rearrangement of how things work in our family, but rearranging our lives was something we knew was coming when we planned to have a baby. so yes, we co-sleep, & i’m okay with that.

3. i will not nurse my son longer than a year. well, m is now 21 months old, & i still nurse him. i remember when a woman from our church commented that she nursed both her sons until they were 2, i was totally horrified. i didn’t think i would be able to handle being so tied to one person. but actually, for the most part, i love nursing, and so does m. i love the way his whole body completely relaxes after the first few sucks, & how he is able to gently drift off to sleep while nursing. it’s the right thing for us right now, so, we do it.

4. i will not allow my child to watch television. thank the Lord for streaming video, is all i have to say about that. m loves watching sesame street videos, as well as a cute little french cartoon called manon. & he is completely mesmerized by it. as in, i can chop some vegetables, clean the toilet, or, just sit down for a minute while he watches. he still prefers to read, most of the time, & he doesn’t watch for hours and hours, but i am so so thankful that he likes watching television!!

5. i will love being a stay at home mother. probably the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with in motherhood was the fact that i don’t like being a stay at home mum. for some reason, i had this idea that as soon as i became a mother, i would only want to spend time with my son, & i would be fulfilled in being a housewife and mother. don’t get me wrong, i have so much respect for women (or men!) who do this- stay at home full time with their children. it is wonderful that there are people who love that calling so much that they are fulfilled and joyful (at least most of the time ;) in doing what i believe is the most difficult job on earth, but i know it’s not for me.

& that’s not to say that i don’t enjoy spending time with my son. in fact, i love it. i love seeing the world through his eyes; i love going for walks & watching him relish the wind in his face; i love building block towers & knocking them down; i love watching cookies bake; i love reading books & making silly faces; i love singing loudly & dancing round & round. but i know, for me, that i am a better mother when i am not at home with him all the time. i know i can take more joy in block towers and waffles and sandra boynton books when i do something during the day that is just mine, something that exercises my brain and stretches my mind. i need contact with adult people who talk about jesus and foucault and the bilingual turn and chomsky’s native speaker. when i get that during my days, i can be a fully present mother, which makes me more patient, more flexible and (maybe) more fun.

the most important lesson i have learned is that this is okay. i don’t have to feel like i am failing as a mother because i can’t be one of the stay at home variety. there were many tears about this for me, because i watched other mums, in my surroundings or on blogs who are so happy and fulfilled, managing to do crafts, bake, cook delicious food, keep their homes sparkling… in my home, there are cheerios in the floor of the kitchen, there are toys on the floor of the living room, my bed is unmade, but my brain is stretching, and so is my husband’s, and so is m’s. d speaks to m in french, i speak to m in german… his little brain is growing growing growing. i’m starting a phd next semester, so it’s not likely that our house is going to get cleaned more regularly.

but that’s okay.