Browsing Tag

Happy Birthday

Motherhood, Olive


Over the past seven years, I’ve come to understand my strengths as a mother. My weaknesses, too.

I’m great at talking, first of all. Especially the hard conversations. I think my time as a youth worker prepared me for this. When you spend five years having daily chats about awkward subject matter with even more awkward teenagers about everything from personal hygiene to sex to drug use to abusive relationships, you get used to diving into the tough stuff, erasing the judgment, letting your matter-of-factness draw out theirs.

I’ve always felt comfortable talking to Olive about the tough stuff, too. About the divorce, moving, consent, swearing, body image, my dating, her fear and anxiety, and the budding dramas in her friendship groups. Talking about things feels like it comes easily to me; the words show up and I speak them. We talk a lot, and she tells me everything. I’m good at that stuff.

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Last month, Olive turned six years old.

I woke up in the soft grey of early morning and made waffles in our quiet kitchen, my feet cold against the stone tiles.

As I did, I thought about each of the past six years, right back to the beginning. Those months where I carried her inside of me; when I became so used to her tumbling, kicking, curious presence that my belly felt oddly still and empty after.

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Five years ago, I began to grow.

I spent nine of the happiest months of my life growing bigger and bigger, my heart swelling along with my belly until one sunny October day I drove down to Vancouver and that belly, now comically large, was cut in two.

They pulled out a tiny, squalling, dark-haired little girl with big plushy lips, and I named her Olive.

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Family, Olive

The big birthday

Last weekend, we celebrated Olive’s third birthday. Because I am a good person, I am going to spare you all of the “how the hell is she three!?” teeth-gnashing and just skip to the good stuff.

(Okay but just ONE thing…three years ago she was this tiny 7 lb brunette…

what on earth!?)

Sigh. Anyway, waaaaaay back in early summer (have I mentioned I love planning birthdays?) I asked her what kind of party she wanted.

“A dinosaur party” she stated emphatically. Everyone knows that almost-three-year-old’s must be obeyed, so I got to work planning a fantastic prehistoric bash! We made a Pin-The-Tail-On-The-T-Rex game, dinosaur footsteps leading up to the house, dino decorations, and party hats – and an ambitious (for me) dinosaur cake.
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We are here, nestled in the warmth of my mom’s floating house. I’ve been basking in unlimited  sister time, just drinking in these four strange, wonderful creatures and also negotiating the bewildering dual identities of daughter and mother. Does anyone else get this?

I think they must. It’s a fairly common thing, to lapse into a familiar pattern of childishness when you return home again. No matter how old you are or how far you’ve come since that you left home, that cozy dependence beckons the moment you let your guard down. Before you know it you are eight years old again and saying yes to tea, and naps, and sandwiches. It feels so good to be taken care of like that, with offers of hot baths and sleeping in. It’s always been one of the things I most looked forward to when visiting my mom.

But lately, since Olive was born (and getting stronger with each passing month) there is a strange looping effect where I am taken care of by my mom while simultaneously doing the same for O and suddenly there’s an abundance of mothering happening and we’re walking out the door with me adjusting Olive’s scarf against the wind and my mom shoving mitts at me and the whole thing just seems to loop in on itself, then Olive picks up her baby and starts rocking her and patting her on the back and I just think my head might explode.

Christmas was beautiful, and this was one of the few years that I haven’t felt a heavy sense of guilty settling in after the gifts were opened. This may be because we were really restrained in gift-buying this year – Adam’s family opted out of exchanging gifts between adults, and we did a Secret Santa exchange amongst my siblings – but I also think it had to do with Olive. Seeing her joy while opening gifts, and not necessarily because of the gifts themselves but because of the actual rip and tear opening, was priceless. It did a lot to yank me out of my existential first world guilt and actually just enjoy the occasion.

I gave Adam this gorgeous sweater that I saw at RW & Co. a few weeks ago, which I then promptly adopted and wore for all of Christmas day, and today too until he finally staged a coup and stole the sweater right off my back.


Last but not least:

Internets, tomorrow I turn thirty. 30. THIRTY.

I am feeling pretty good about this. I look at the past decade as an education, and over the past few months I feel like I have known myself more thoroughly than ever before.

When you’re younger there’s a gap, whether it’s small or gaping, between the person you are and the person you want to be.  I think I have let that go. Or am midway through the process, at least. I look back on the last decade, the ten years where I mostly became the person I am here, now, sitting here up too late drinking coconut water, and I see myself setting, gelling, solidifying. This is somewhat gratifying because it means I can let go of the process of becoming that seems to typify the twenty-something years, that laborious trying on of identities and personas, shedding personalities like snake skin along the way.

But it’s also somewhat worrisome because it means I have to acknowledge and accept aspects of my personality that I had always hoped I could change – through good intentions, perseverance or sheer will. Everyone has these things, the shadow side of themselves they like to deny or avoid, but in the past year I have sort of sat with them, and accepted them. Things like my tendency towards judgment, a way of thinking that can sometimes seem rigid and inflexible, and an unfortunate predisposition to pessimism and over thinking.

They aren’t my favourite characteristics, but there they are. There they have been for the past decade and probably more, and I think they are here to stay. I can mitigate their effects, try to minimize their influence but I don’t think I’ll ever destroy them completely. They’re as much a part of me as my freckles, or that strange man I married who just leaned over and said, “Why do I get so full so quickly? I think I have a baby stomach.”

Guys, this is my life. And what a life it is, too.

I drove my sisters home tonight and after we’d pulled up in front of their house, Mawney started quizzing me about my plans for tomorrow. “Breakfast, pottery, a visit to Russell Books. Sushi for dinner, and hopefully a round of deep tissue back massages.” I said.

She quizzed me further. What time for breakfast? When would Olive be napping? Should she make reservations for dinner? The questions just kept coming and the fact that they were coming from her, my youngest sister who answers every query with “I don’t care. Whatever you want is fine.”, was beginning to get weird.

Just then she pointed at the clock, as I turned to see the time change over to midnight the van erupted into a joyful rendition of Happy Birthday. Laughter bubbled over and I looked back at this van of smiling shining faces and I felt so lucky, and so amazed that they love me as much as they do.

Dirty thirty, guys! Bring it.


I might just kick off my fourth decade by recreating this magnificent photo.
Also: Look at those lips and tell me I didn’t invent duckface. Seriously.