Thursday 21 January 2021

Another Birthday!!

Nine years ago today my wife and I welcomed our third and youngest daughter into the world and our family. A lot has changed in the past 9 years. We moved, the girls changed schools we welcomed a new puppy into the family in 2017 and a little brother in 2018...and this past year has been a wild ride for everyone.

Birthdays certainly don't look like they used to pre-pandemic. I know in the grand scheme of things altered birthday plans are not the worst. But I think for us parents it's a source of quiet lament or even sadness over the loss of something so basic as a typical birthday party. Worry over not marking the milestone quite right, of our kids not noting the significance of the day or feeling special is real. No matter how silly that might sound I think it's a reality. A birthday party is such a basic rite of passage; when not allowed to celebrate it the ways that we've grown accustomed to it just feels off.

We made the most of the day and were intentional about just being present in the day and having fun together. I took the afternoon off and when the girls were done their schooling we went sledding (still permitted) where our new nine year old saw her best friend. Then we went home and our wonderful friends drove by for a pandemic birthday parade where they transferred cards and gifts from their car windows to us. Then we had take-out, homemade ice cream sundaes with ultimate toppings, followed by gifts and a movie.

Despite not looking the same as birthday parties as we've come to known them. Seeing the joy on my little girl's face when she got to see her friend or as she watched the cars of friends driving by was precious. It was a pretty sweet day that reminded me that the best part of any celebration is just being together with the people you care about. 

It's a joy watching my (I guess) not-so-little girl grow-up. Through all the changes in life, both personal and otherwise, she has maintained such a sweet disposition. She's kind, generous, hard-working and always so easy going. She's one cool kid and I'm proud to be her Dad. 

Happy Birthday!!

Monday 18 January 2021

The Proving Ground


     It's an exciting time in my family. My cousin and his wife just had their first baby! I remember the moment when I became a Daddy - not when I became a father, for that happened some two years earlier.   It was the middle of the night and I was awoken by my first born's little voice coming from down the hall. She was calling to me, “Daddy!”               

     Calling for me was significant because it was the first time ever that she called for me before calling for my wife.  “Daddy” was in fact a newer word in her vocabulary, I'm convinced that she knew how to say it, but she preferred to call both my wife and I Mommy.  So there I was, three o’clock in the morning or thereabouts, hearing my little girl calling for me for the first time, needing ME!  What a moment.  I snapped into action.  With a glance at my wife I told her, “I’ve got this one,” and with a goofy smile plastered on my face and pride swelling up within me, I made my way down the hall to her room.  She had only recently moved into her own room so I figured she had woken-up, realized she was alone and simply needed a little back rub to fall back to sleep – and on this night she wanted me, Daddy! 

     I turned the corner into her room and stopped in my tracks.  There she was, my precious little angel, kneeling on her bed, tears in her eyes, arms uplifted, needing her Daddy, wanting a hug… with puke blanketing the front of her jammies.  Instantly taking in the scene and processing the ramifications of hugging my puke-covered angel, I made my decision. Without hesitation (okay, maybe a little hesitation) I bent down, scooped her up into my arms and held her tightly to myself.  Then and there, with puke sandwiched between us, our bond as Daddy and his little girl was cemented.  I fought back a tear brought on by the knowledge that my little girl needed me…wanted me…and maybe the pungent smell of that night’s dinner…but mostly the former. 

     Perhaps that was a way of testing my devotion to her as a father -her way of seeing if she could count on me through the harshest of conditions.  I like to think that I passed.  After a very brief moment cherishing our embrace, I called to my wife, “Honey!  I’m going to need some back-up…”

Sunday 17 January 2021

Silver Linings

"There's no great loss without some small gain."

 Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie


Two months out from a year of living with lock-downs, shut downs, masks and social distancing and it seems as novel as the night I got a call from my boss telling me not to come into work the next day. It was supposed to be for two weeks...It's easy to dwell on everything that we cannot do and everything that we've lost in the past year. If we allow ourselves that indulgence then we miss out on appreciating some small gains altogether. Don't get me wrong. There's a time to grieve and mourn, but when that time has past, then it's time to take stock (and maybe stock up) and move on.

It's tempting to remain in a constant state of waiting for things to return to the way they were. I've always been, however, more process oriented than product oriented. That is, the journey to wherever it is that I'm going is as intriguing as the destination. The dash between point A and B needs to be embraced to get the most out of this thing called life. Destination "normalcy" (as in life before COVID) may be a mirage. I'm inclined to believe that we know not what kind of world awaits us on the other end of this journey.

Therefore I choose to focus, or at the very least constantly remind myself, of all the little things that I count as benefits of the past year. In fact the best thing of the past year is no small thing at all. Unprecedented time with my family. With my ability to work from home, the girls primarily doing their schooling online from home and my wife and son already at home...we've spent nearly every day together for the past 10 months. It's a good thing we love each other otherwise this would be a lot harder. There's no one else I'd want to be in lock down with. There has been lots of family games, walks, stories, movies and generally just hanging-out time...time well spent. 

My mom used to have a quote up on a white board at the ol' homestead, "Time wasted is not spent but lost..." Or something like that. The reverse is even more poignant. Time well spent is an investment and never lost. This time that I've been able to invest in my family is precious and I'm sure we will reap the dividends of tighter bonds. 

Who knows how long this journey to the end of the pandemic will take or what it will look like when we get there. Even as I look forward to that day when we regain some sense of normalcy, I will not lose today with all of its blessings while I wait for tomorrow.

Thursday 31 August 2017

Time Keeps Ticking

Well the new school year is almost upon us.  The kiddies look to Tuesday with one part lament for the passing of the summer mixed with one part excitement to see their friends again and kick-off another year of learning.

I realized today, that this will be the last year that my oldest is in the same school as one of her sisters until grade 12, six years from now.  At first I felt a little sad for the one being left behind only to realize that at least she still has our youngest to keep her company at their present school.  Whereas my oldest will be on her own, trailblazing into the great unknown that is middle-school and high school.  That takes guts and grit.

I mentioned it to my girls but was careful not to do it in a way that added too much gravity to the situation.  I mean, perhaps the feeling I infused this situation with is simply parental projection...maybe I'm a little uneasy with the notion of the girls growing up and striking out on their own.  Okay, alright...I know they're still a few years from disembarking the family ship, but each milestone, like this one, reminds me of how fleeting our time together is.  And quite frankly the milestones seem to clipping by a little faster each year.

I often go through my days without much thought to the temporal nature of familial situation.  When you're in the midst of the day-to-day busyness, struggles and joy it often seems like there is no end in sight.  Then you take a moment to pause, step back, look around and you suddenly realize that what's to come is actually less than what has been, at least in regards to time.

My hope is that what's to come is far greater than what has come and gone.  I hope it is filled with time well spent with one another and spent well on experiences that draw us closer together as a family.  I strive to make it count so that the girls never feel like they're going it alone regardless of the space between us.

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Full House...Again

Cottage living is the perfect foil to the regimented pace of the rest of the year.  It is the ideal setting to create sun-drenched, slightly overexposed memories of lazy summer days; my girls more than willing actors emerse themselves in their summer roles, running, swimming, climbing trees (and anything else they can wrap their arms around), kayaking, jumping and bouncing, reading, day dreaming and just general summertime romping.  My wife is an eager enabler and has taken every opportunity to sneak away to the cottage to allow the girls to make the most of their respite from the rigours of the school year. 

Therefore I have had the unusual experience of being home alone more often than usual this summer as I stay behind to attend to the duties of the job.  Two conflicting reactions emerge:

1) I'm home alone! 

2) I'm home alone... 

There are benefits to being home alone.  I can eat the best looking piece of barbecued chicken - guilt free.  I can start working out at eight instead of ten and crank the music while I do (though I inevitably turn it down because I think it's too loud).  I watch movies with the volume turned up too loud (which I inevitably turn down as well...because I'm also free to turn it down as low as I want).  I can sleep in the middle of the bed snoring as loudly as I want or at least until I wake myself up.  Ah yes - these are the indulgences that are not to be taken for granted.

I enjoy being home alone...for about ten minutes, but then I get lonely.  I don't like eating dinner by myself even if I do get the choice cuts of meat.  I miss the silly questions that zing around the table and being regaled with the adventures of the day even if it comes with extra mess and constant negotiating over how much food needs to be eaten before one becomes eligible for dessert.  It's not the same watching a movie without being able to cuddle with my honeybun and it just doesn't feel right falling asleep and waking up to an empty house. 

It puts my mind at ease and fills my heart with joy knowing my house is full...full of what is most important to me. 

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Oh Canada...How Do I Love Thee?

Oh do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...

1.  Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Often I think these freedoms are being misconstrued in our post-modern (or are we post-post now?) world of uber-secularism and hyper-rationalism.  Many take these freedoms to mean freedom from rather than freedom of the above.  This slight change of phrase has serious consequences.  Freedom of means that we are allowed to openly confess, discuss and be whatever we will be as long as it's done within the confines of civility and law...with gentleness and respect.  The lack of gentleness and respect by many participants in this and that cause of the past has lead many to wont for freedom from the above.  Meaning that whatever you want to believe or practice is okay within a private setting but, "I don't want to have your ideologies forced upon me thank you very much!  Keep it out of the public sphere!  Practice your religion at home!  What happens in the bedroom is your business!!"  And so on.  The problem is that is not real freedom.  I'm proud that I live in a country where we still have freedom least for now.  Even if I believe what you believe is foolishness or you think my reasoning is ludicrous we should still be able to believe, confess and express ourselves as we feel is right and appropriate - with gentleness and respect.

2.  Canada = Kanata = The Village
Noam Chomsky in the book Power Systems briefly describes the rise of unions and the role they played in establishing the contrasting health care models used by the United States and Canada.  He said, "In Canada the unions struggled for health care for the country.  In the United States, the struggled for health care for themselves...That's a reflection of different cultural values and institutional structures in two very similar countries."  

Later in the book he talks about the public education system, "Public education is based on the principle of solidarity.  So, for example, I had my children fifty years ago.  Nevertheless, I feel and I'm supposed to feel that I should pay taxes so that the kids across the street can go to school.  That's counter to the doctrine that you should just look after yourself and let everyone else fall by the wayside...[public education] builds up a sense of solidarity, community, mutual support."  

This idea of civic duty, looking out for one another and community is a core Canadian value that I hold dear.  Though we are a vast and sometimes disparate nation we are one big village that needs to stay together, work together and continue to look out for one another.  This sense of community is what has made Canada what it is today.

Freedom of and the sense of community and solidarity are complementary values.  Even if we hold very different personal beliefs and values than our neighbours, we can still be unified.  If we hold to strong community values we will ensure that we express ourselves in a way that does not offend our neighbours or encroach on their rights and freedoms.  Likewise we will also defend our neighbours' right to express themselves rather than ask them to keep all of that to themselves.  

The problem lies in the danger of moving towards a self-serving sense of entitlement rather than solidarity striving sense of shared space and community.  When we concede to thinking about our rights above all others, rather than considering our neighbours' rights equal to ours, then will lose what has made this country glorious and free.  

God [help us to] keep this land, glorious and free!
Happy Canada Day!!