Tip-toeing in the garden of mothers-in-law

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There is a lovely article in the Huffington Post on becoming a new mother-in-law to your son’s wife. It is sweet, heart-rending and very real.

What’s your advice for new mothers-in- law?  I would love to hear from you so please leave your response in the Reply Box below.

Welcoming Syrian refugees: with or without the niqab

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Our Syrian friends will soon be with us.  Groups all over the country are working hard to sponsor a refugee family and I am part of one.

I am looking forward to meeting “our” family and helping them to settle in Canada. But that means that I must, and all Canadians must, put aside whatever concerns they may have about the newest members of our family and welcome them with open arms.

In Canada, we recently had a debate about wearing the niqab in citizenship courts and no doubt some of the refugees coming to Canada will be wearing one.  Eighty two percent of Canadians disagree with allowing the niqab to be worn while taking the citizenship oath.

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Come home to mama now!

Martha Wainwright

Martha Wainwright

I just heard, for the first time, Canadian-American singer songwriter Martha Wainwright’s beautiful and haunting rendition of her mother Kate McGarrigle’s song “Proserpina” and was knocked off my feet.

Martha Wainwright’s soaring voice expresses the pain, desperation and yearning of parents whose adult child has disappeared from their lives. The song could be about a homeless child, a drug-addled child out on a binge, an estranged child or simply a child who has chosen to live in another country.

The chorus of the song goes like this:

Proserpina! Proserpina!
Come home to mama, come home to mama
Proserpina! Proserpina!
Come home to mother, come home to mama now.

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Later! A Guide to Parenting A Young Adult

Later!I almost felt as if I were sitting in an office across from a fifty year old social worker and mother getting down to earth, no-nonsense advice on how to parent my adult child while reading “Later!” A Guide to Parenting A Young Adult.”

This is a how-to book, full of practical tips and if we are sensible, the authors seem to be saying, we will just get on with it. There is no room in this book for self-pitying, self recrimination or advice to stop blaming yourself for any poor behaviour your child may be exhibiting.

This is not to say that Later! is not a good book.  In fact, I thought it was excellent.

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Ten things I wish I told my mother

Violet Milligan at 17--later my very strong mother

A photo of my mother at 17 that reveals none of her strength

 

Would’ ve, should ‘ ve, could’ ve. 

Three words that apply to at least some parts of everyone’s life.

Here are ten things I should have told my mother when I was an adult child.

1. I wish you would say you love me.  You never do, you didn’t even when I was a child. I know you love me and you will always help me but it would mean so much to hear you say it. 

2. Thank you for not being demanding in terms of my time.  I am very aware of my obligations to you and Dad and obviously you realize that. You also understand how busy I am with my job and three children and you let me manage my life without adding another layer of guilt and responsiblity. As a result, I don’t resent spending time with you.

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Omar Khadr: It’s our turn to step up to the plate

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Ever since Mother’s Day and with Father’s Day just around the corner, I can’t stop thinking about how Omar Khadr’s parents failed him, how the Canadian government failed him, how Dennis Edney stepped up to the plate and how the rest of us need to do the same.

I have a son about the same age and it pains me to think how he would withstand such an ordeal.

By now, most of us know the sad story of Omar Khadr.

His parents turned him into a child soldier, moved him to Afghanistan, where in 2002 at the age of 15, he threw a hand grenade during a firefight that possibly killed an American soldier. He was caught and sent to Guantanamo Bay, a detention camp in Cuba. He was imprisoned, isolated, starved, sleep-deprived, water boarded, threatened with rape and hung up by his arms by U.S. government agents.

In 2010, Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to war crimes, allowing him the possibility of being transferred to Canada where he would serve most of his eight year sentence.  He later said he pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo Bay. He was advised that if he did not plead guilty he could spend the rest of his life there.

In 2012, Omar Khadr returned to Canada. He was placed first in a maximum-security prison and then in a medium-security prison in 2014.  He was released on bail in May, 2015.

No-one could argue that Omar Khadr’s parents were fit to parent a young teenager. They and their terrorist associates used him as a spy and a translator and ultimately in armed conflict.

Given the lack of proper parental care, Ottawa should have stepped up to the plate. Read More

When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart

20514.widea“When Your Adult Child Breaks You Heart”  is a wonderfully practical, well-organized and straight forward book intended to help parents of adult children with severe problems and who are causing major problems for themselves, their parents and others.

The authors Joel L. Young and Christine Adamec have written extensively on similar topics and know their subject well. This book was published in 2014.

The authors set the tone by explaining that most parents are not to blame for their child’s difficulties and they are determined to help parents stop blaming themselves. The authors believe that mental illness and substance abuse are the core of most problematic behaviour.

They reassure parents by saying that if you can’t think what terrible thing you did to doom your adult child, than you probably didn’t do any terrible thing at all. They provide exercises for  parents to help them realize the limitations of their influence over their child.

They recognize that parents of these children are psychologically traumatized by their previous encounters with the police or courts, and when sensing new problems, their anxiety can turn into panic and depression.

They try to mitigate concerns such as :

  • if I try hard enough I can help my child;
  • I must sacrifice to support my child;
  • no-one amongst our family or friends has ever acted so badly; and
  • if my child loved me he or she would not act this way.

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Remember who you are: advice for daughters and sons

Lisa Moore

Mothers, daughters, trust, and desire.

Laughter, poignancy, insight and life long advice.

It’s all there in a 12 minute talk given by Newfoundland author Lisa Moore on The Walrus‘s web site, a Canadian magazine that provides information and analysis on just about any topic.  Moore is the author of “February”, a novel that won the Canada Reads 2013 contest and her works of fiction have been nominated for the Giller and the Man Booker prizes.

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International Women’s Day: A time to act

International Women's Day 2015 Theme

International Women’s Day 2015 Theme

I am ashamed to admit that I almost forgot that International Women’s Day is March 8 until I received an e-mail from Match, a Canadian organization dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women  around the world.

No parent can afford to forget IWD or the struggles it represents, if we want equality for our girls and boys.

Not so long ago my mother was considered by law incapable of deciding whether a medical operation would be in the best interests of her children. In 1950’s Quebec, where I grew up, the law required the signature of my father, who while a lovely man, was not an involved dad and would have known far less than my mother, a former nurse, about any health concerns his kids might have had. It was not until 1964 that Quebec wives could conduct themselves independently in legal or financial matters without authorization from their husbands.

My mother was married under a regime known as “separate as to property”.  That meant she had control over what she owned. But that was useless for a stay-at-home mom, who owned only the things she brought into the marriage: some silverware, dishes and bed sheets. She was totally dependent upon the good will of my father.

My mother once gave a speech at the local Toastmistress organization on how Quebec legislation discriminated against women.   She came home fiercely angry when the male adjudicator gave her poor marks, which she was convinced were in retaliation to what she said. She raged against her status in the 1950’s before the 1960’s wave of feminism became the rage.

My grandmother’s situation was worse. Read More

Stealing an adult child’s life: A sad arrangement

The Oscar winning movie “Still Alice” is disturbing on many fronts but what haunts me most is the possibility that Alice, a woman in in her early 50’s struggling with early onset Alzheimer’s, could steal her daughter’s youth.

Out of love and compassion, Alice’s younger daughter moves to New York from the west coast to look after her ailing mom, while the other members of the family move on with their lives, including Alice’s husband who decides to pursue his career in another city.

I had the same concern  after reading “They Left Us Everything”, a memoir by Plum Johnson about dismantling the family home after her mother’s death and through the process, coming to terms with her relationship with her mother.   Johnson looked after her parents from her early forties to her early sixties and she chronicles her growing resentment and anger during this period until her mother died at 93. Her mother, a cantankerous and self centered old soul, stole Johnson’s middle age.

What starts out as an act of love can turn into a test of endurance and I pray my children will be spared that fate. Read More