The mother of all guilt trips: Being happy being alone

This time tomorrow I’ll miss them.

Tonight, though, feels like a breakthrough; tonight feels like I’ve given myself permission to stop feeling guilty for a moment and breathe one big, deep soul replenishing breath.

Growing weary in a pandemic

Tonight they are at their dads. It’s been a long, busy week. There were bike rides and home reading battles. There were concurrent work deadlines and big conversations. There were so many dishes and there was, for some reason, an inordinate amount of dog vomit.

The weather was spectacular and every moment spent inside in front of a computer screen felt like punishment. Crystal clear blue skies and glorious wind lifted the flags in the schoolyard next door and cast shadows across the pooch often sleeping at my feet. I spent most of the week inside looking out; pandemic numbers have been steady but hospitalizations are at an all time high. The media assures us that we’re all doing everything wrong and that there is no guarantee of a reprieve this summer. I endeavour to always be kind and calm, but this week’s mandated kindness and calmness has come at a psychological cost. 

Blessed silence

Tonight, though, there’s no one watching and modeling my behaviour, and I can finally switch off. Tonight, instead of having to lay down the law at the dinner table demanding they eat and threatening some form of punishment, I ordered sushi and ate it slowly and quietly without background noises of YouTube or some weird anime.

Tonight the house is clean — there are no stray socks on the floor or toothbrush smears on the bathroom mirror— and it smells good in here. I lit scented candles knowing that I won’t have to stop my kids from blowing them out or dunking their fingertips into the wax and then peeling their waxy fingers all over the clean countertops.

Tonight I had a bath at 7 p.m., during which time I applied a face mask, read a little bit, and sipped a glass of wine. I ended my bath when I felt like it instead of when someone banged on the door announcing that they had to poo.

How can I be both a wonderful, loving, and attentive mother, and also a woman who craves space, time, and quiet freedom?

Tonight I am recharging and I am trying not to feel guilty about it. My children are growing up so quickly that it takes my breath away. When I stare at photos of them from a year ago, two years ago, or four, I catch my breath and sometimes sob. How can I be both a wonderful, loving, and attentive mother, and also a woman who craves space, time, and quiet freedom? 

Tomorrow morning I’ll miss them. I’ll miss the energy they wake up with, I’ll miss their laughter, and their odd pronouncements. I’ll miss making them pancakes, and I might even miss the sound of their weird cartoons, interrupted only by cries of pain as they wrestle each other for the remote.

Tonight, though, feels different; it feels as though I’m honouring myself. In giving myself permission to enjoy this solitude and shed the guilt associated with it, tonight feels like a gift.

Sobering thoughts about pandemic drinking

“I’m allergic to red wine,” a good friend once told me when I offered her a glass. “I once drank two litres of homemade red and became violently ill.”

By this logic, I’m allergic to Smirnoff Ice, my high school boyfriend was horrifically allergic to boilermakers, and my best friend is allergic to banana flavoured paralyzers.

Like many others, I’ve washed Smirnoff Ice-flavoured vomit out of my hair following a party held inside a faux spaceship in a small Alberta town, but that was a long, long time ago, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had an “allergic” reaction to booze.

These days, a single glass of wine leaves me pleasantly warm and snoozy. My clothes fit better, snacks are more delicious, and Netflix comedy specials are funnier. More than a glass or two and I risk bed spins, so it’s a delicate and delightful balance.

sobering thoughts

I’m not a big drinker, but I think about drinking often, and this gleeful anticipation has caused me some consternation.

Let’s face it, the pandemic has changed all of our habits, and our alcohol consumption is only one. Last fall, researchers at York University discovered that parents of children under 18 are using alcohol to cope with pandemic-related stress. In December, Canada’s top public health officer warned Canadians to sober up, noting that by and large, we have increased our alcohol consumption over the past 10 months.

what even is a weekend?

During the pandemic I stopped going out, yet every night felt like Friday and my alcohol consumption reflected this. My uncommitted relationship with booze became monogamous. This spring, a glass of wine became the reward for getting through days filled with uncertainty and feelings of inadequacy.

I was signing into Google classrooms, checking homework, monitoring screens and ensuring tablets were charging as required, all while managing my own full-time job and struggling to complete graduate school, which I did in a corner of my children’s playroom while they were sleeping. I was hanging onto my sanity with the lightest of grips, and for the first time in my life I was underperforming in every single subject.

There was comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone. Friends, colleagues, strangers — we were all drowning, but most of us were too busy to notice the water rushing up past our ears. And all the memes that normalize how moms drink to cope gave me encouragement. See all those wine memes? Everyone does it!

Booze played an integral supporting role in this drama. Nightly wine (or sometimes blueberry gin mixed with elderflower tonic because I’m fancy like that) became a bright light; it became the raft I was swimming toward. When the screens blinked off for the day, when the kitchen was tidied and the house had settled into a blissful quiet, I’d shuffle into the kitchen, reach for my favourite glass and fill it up. I’d carry it with me to the coziest chair and cup that chalice with both hands, breathing deeply for the first time all day. As that first delicious sip wound its way into my belly I’d heave a great sigh. I made it through another day. Cheers!

Meditating or medicating?

A few months of this and I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but the pandemic didn’t stop, and what began as a treat ended up feeling more like a prescription.

When the BC Cancer Foundation launched its Loose the Booze fundraising campaign, I opted to challenge myself and I begged a few friends to join. It’s been two weeks, and I’m fine. As I suspected, tea is delicious and much less expensive, and there are a billion flavours of carbonated water, which is nice. I’m also snacking less — it turns out I make much better food choices when I’m not a tiny bit tipsy.

There’s relief in knowing that I can stop, and that I’m not a problem drinker. Yet. But if you try and can’t, you’re not alone, and there are services available.

And by all means, support our Lose the Booze team by donating to cancer research. Already, I’m feeling great about my decision, but with your support I’ll feel even better.

The labels we give ourselves

I have been called a lot of things, and those labels have changed over time. I have always been “daughter,” “granddaughter,” and “sister,” and one of my fondest labels is “friend.” Don’t get me started on the labels that were placed on me in high school, though thankfully I didn’t hang my identity on “band geek.” 

I was “journalist” for many years, which was a label I loved and have yet to remove completely; and of course, I have been “mom” for the past 11 years, which is label that has threaded itself into my DNA. 

For 14 years I was “wife”. It was a label I wore nearly as proudly as “mother.”

But today I am an ex. The prefix is one I actively resisted. This is not a label I longed for, in fact, it is one I actively dodged for more than two years.  

I had no interest in being single, separated, divorced. And yet here I am — two of those things, and probably months away from being the third. 

Today, I am somebody’s “ex”, whereas moments ago I was the same person’s partner. Ex is a label I’ve used a hundred times to refer to other people and their former partners, but when attached to me it feels wrong. I wanted to brush it off like a cobweb that I walked through on my way to take out the garbage; I wanted to cut it off carefully so as not to tear the fabric of my favourite shirt.

In pirate adventures, an x marks the spot where an amazing treasure is hidden, but put an e in front of that x and all you’ve got is a person with baggage and several sad stories to tell. Now that’s me: Teller of sad stories; carrier of baggage.

I’d much prefer being treasure. 

Today, I am an ex, and instead of being “parent”, I am (legally-speaking) a co-parent, which is another label that will no doubt give me a rash. As I get used to wearing these scratchy tags, I busy myself by unpacking in my new home, setting up my new space, and ensuring my children have two of everything so they never feel like guests, or have to live out of suitcases. 

And when I look up from my busyness, I realize that it is now dark outside and so quiet in this house. I’m spending my first nights alone. I miss the taken-for-granted moments. I miss the every-day silliness at the dinner table, and the serious talks before bed. I have heard from other moms — other exes and co-parents — that I will come to appreciate these quiet moments. That when I wash these labels enough they’ll become soft and comfortable. That when I watch my children thrive, I will relax, and I will be grateful for those tags.

But I’m not there yet. In the quiet moments, these first ones, the labels chafe and are unbearable.

Yes, children are resilient creatures, and I take comfort in this. But when it comes to the resiliency of this mother, this co-parent, and this ex, we will just have to wait and see.   

The guilt of pandemic parenting

The guilt of parenting during a pandemic is heavier than any weighted blanket available on Amazon, and unlike a weighted blanket which is designed to reduce anxiety and improve sleep, it ratchets it up, and gives your brain more to consider as you lay awake, completely aware of how badly you’re failing at just about everything you’re doing right now.

Where I live, we’re in Week 3 of pandemic parenting, meaning while mom and dad work full time from home, we’re also providing full-time care to our children, which includes some educational instruction.

(I’d like to pause here and acknowledge that our pandemic situation is privileged. Privilege, in this case, looks like general good health, two parents, two pay cheques (for now), food in the fridge, an ample (but not excessive) amount of toilet paper, a bit of a backyard, and more sunny days than rainy ones. There’s even an uncertified therapy dog who is happy to absorb all of the angst and fear that comes from being locked up with your loved ones for days on end.)

I always wanted children, but I also knew that stay-at-home parenting was not my jam. I love grown-ups, and swearing, and solving grown-up problems. I love leaving behind my dirty laundry and mismatched socks in favour of a quiet office that I share with a five-year old orchid that blooms semi-annually. I love the sound of the office HVAC system, and I love my other office mate, a tiny blue space heater that only sees use in summer because the HVAC system lives in Opposite Land. I love going to work, I love being at work, and I love coming home from work to see faces I would die for — faces that I’ve missed so much and thought about so many times during the day. I love the car ride home from daycare because I get to hear all of their ridiculous stories. I love sharing adventures and kid gossip at the dinner table. I love weekends because it means I can stay home with my people because I miss them so much.

I always wanted children, but I also knew that teaching was not my jam. My mother is a teacher, my sister, too. I watch both and shake my head. Where they excel, I would flounder. Judging by my parenting style, if you put me in charge of a class full of 7-year-olds I would take turns bribing them with Dino-Sours and threatening to cancel Christmas. Adults, with their manners and passive-aggressive side-eyes, don’t scare me, but children are wise and cunning. Eventually they’d figure out that my threats are as empty as the bag of Dino-Sours that I inhaled in the cloak room. At which point I’d probably just run behind a plant and hide because 1. children are terrifying, 2. I have zero teaching tools and no desire to acquire them, and 3. unlike my sister and my mother, I lack the ultimate secret weapon: A teacher voice.

I always loved the routine provided by school, daycare and work, and the thrill I got from stacking all those perfect little glass jars so they balanced so perfectly and shone so beautifully that even the stiffest wind couldn’t knock them over. And yet here we are, in the midst of a pandemic, my glass jars of routine and sanity shattered on the driveway, and I am stuck in my house, working full time, parenting full time, and teaching, too.

I’ve got to say, I’m not a huge fan.

Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 7.39.19 AMPandemic parenting means that I never get to miss my children, and they never get to miss each other. They are always here, always in my business and in each other’s. They wrestle constantly, stopping only when someone gets a bloody nose or a knee to the nuts, and when I suggest a directed drawing, some Reflex Math, or a visit to the Cincinnati Zoo (online, obviously), I’m met with a deep sigh and a “no thanks, I already know about hippos.”

Knees to the nuts it is, then.

And despite how much I joke about my lack of parenting skills, I always secretly thought I was pretty good at it. Until yesterday.

During my oldest child’s first Zoom videoconference with his class he opened up: “I miss everyone so much. I only ever get to talk to my little brother who argues all the time, or my mom and dad, and they’re always working.”

I overheard his comment while up in my office. Working.

And that, dear friends, is what parenting in a pandemic feels like — a heavy, weighted blanket of guilt — guilt that is bottomless and causes breathlessness even as I write it down.

 

Adulting: Reflections of a youngish old person

I’ve read a lot about “adulting” these days, and I laugh (and cry inwardly) at the tweets that  speak so much #truth about the experience of aging.

I’m younger than some, but feel “old” creeping up on me, and never more so than now as I recover from a serious injury, which has made me fully aware of my own frailty. 

c8b846eec8044acad2a656af85c41ec0c05b818b780a0f10d177e154cedb123a_1I had similarly aged friends over this weekend, and noticed something interesting: When grown ups get together, we often find ourselves competing to see who is the most tired, or the most sore (I win); according to the Internets, our favourite childhood memory is of our backs not hurting. We welcome those to the Over 40 Club with phrases like, “I hope you like Advil,” and it’s funny (and sad) because it’s true. After nearly eight weeks convalescing from my first broken bone, and fielding comments from my weekend friends who placed bets on how long it will take to heal, “now that you’re old,” and who asked about whether I broke my ankle due to “low bone density,” I get it. I truly get it. 

We make noises now when we stand up after sitting, when we bend low to get something from a cupboard, or when we have to reach high (for the Advil). Our joints click as we walk down the stairs, or when we yawn.

Last week, when I saw the surgeon for what I hope to be the last time, he stared at me sadly when I asked about my recovery, and my swollen ankle. I enquired about whether or not I’d ever see my ankle bones again, or those adorable small bones in the top of my foot that I had always taken for granted. 

He met my question with a sigh: “It’s never going to be the same, Danna. I don’t want to lie to you, but as good as it might get, it’ll never be the same. You’ll always have your left ankle, though.”

So now, as a youngish old person, I finally get it when I hear others speak of their good and bad bones and joints — their bad knee, the one in which they can feel the change of weather. I now have a bad ankle, and it will also likely predict the future.

The surgeon seemed to be about my age. In the exam room, in that moment of shared sadness, we were literally speaking of my ankle, but I felt we were figuratively speaking about all the things: Our energy levels, the foods that we can no longer eat, how often we have sex, how late we stay up at night (or how early we go to bed), the way our clothes fit, the type of podcasts we listen to (because talk radio is for old people and music is for kids), and the type of documentaries that we fall asleep in front of every single night.

But it’s not all bad. Like the doctor says, there’s still plenty of life left in parts of me. And becoming a youngish old person provides a new perspective, and allows me to focus more on the important things — the things I can control.

Like flossing.

I am older, wicked tired and pretty sore most days, but I have healthy teeth and gums.

And stretching.  

At first, going to yoga was just a way to escape my toddlers for an hour at a time, and to give myself the mental space to avoid a breakdown when they’d get out of bed for the 12th time to ask why we even have mountains. Or Spanish. 

But as it turns out, stretching is important, and never more so now that I’m a youngish old person. Trust me, youngish young people, someday you’ll feel silly going to your chiropractor or massage therapist and telling them that you “stepped weird and felt something pop,” or that you “sneezed once and now you can’t take a deep breath.” I know how foolish these words sound because I’ve said them.

Be smarter than I was.

 

Please buy my “vintage” junk

There are people out there who “live simply,” which I assume means that they don’t have children.

I aspire to live simply, but currently, “live ordinarily,” meaning that my house contains a lot of useless junk. And because we’re busy, and because I consider it winning if I manage to wipe the toothpaste off the bathroom mirrors and occasionally run the vacuum around, organizing, arranging and disposing of this useless junk is always going to happen next weekend.

So as an experiment, when the notice went around the neighbourhood to participate in an upcoming community garage sale, I put my name down figuring that committing to this nonsense would force me to empty out the closets and root through toy bins. Short of moving, this was the only thing I could think of to reduce our mountain of useless excess.

I made this commitment a month ago, and I’ve been stressed the hell out ever since.

I’ve never hosted a garage sale. The garage sale will take place in two days. I am not prepared.

What if I don’t have enough stuff?

Are there a suitable number of things one must offer up to qualify as an appropriately-sized garage sale? What if I’ve been overestimating the volume of crap I have in my house, and when the day arrives, I set up my table in the driveway and it contains only four things?

I have literally lost sleep over this in the past month. What if I don’t have enough garbage?

Then I began combing through closets and it became clear that I was not at risk of running short of crap. It was at this point that I became nervous about displaying my crap with the right amount of flare.

Showing off the goods

When fun, carefree wanderers set up stalls at the market to sell jewelry made of forks, or driftwood wind chimes, their booths look charmingly whimsical, but I bet money they Pinterest the heck out of their retail displays before trundling into the market square at the break of dawn.

But what they’re selling is artistic and fanciful, what I’m selling are four pairs of gently used soccer cleats, every single season of Entourage on DVD (it was a phase), and a bucket full of action figures. My wares are not whimsical, and as such, will be dumped onto old sheets of plywood balanced across Rubbermaid bins with a sign above that reads, “Everything for a dollar.”

I envision brisk sales.

At the heart of it

I’m putting on a Bandaid without treating the infection. I’m purging the worst of the garbage, knowing full well that I’m just making way for more. I’m stemming the flow, but I can’t hold back the tide. I’m not dealing with the root of the problem, but she’s my mother in law and I love her.

So please, if you’re not busy Saturday, come buy my “vintage” DVDs.

The great sleepover debate

I said no.

I say no often to my children without giving it much thought, but this seemed like a big no; there was a harshness to it. Saying it hurt a little because I could feel he wanted it so badly, and he’s such a great kid, and he’s almost 10, and I was probably being over protective.

“No. You can’t go to the sleepover birthday at the local ski hill. I don’t know this boy. I’ve never met him or his parents. It’s an hour away on a snowy road. No.”

Sleepovers are a rite of passage, and I remember my first attempt vividly.

I was about six, and I was to sleep over at my best friend Tami’s house. I’d visited countless times before, and our parents were friends.

There was a build up of excitement; I could barely eat as butterflies parked in my belly.

Finally, Friday night arrived and it was amazing until the lights went out, at which time I sobbed and begged Tami’s mom to take me home. She did.

A few weeks later, I tried it out again and made it through the night. I graduated to other sleepovers — sleepovers that found me giggling on my grandma’s balcony with my cousin Becky, or up watching Labyrinth over and over, pausing only to make prank calls to the boys from school.

(Keep in mind, this was before call display.)

Sleepovers were great. Sleepovers are great. I want my kids to have sleepovers and to host sleepovers, but I’ve been fielding invitations from parents since my oldest was about five, and I say no far more often than I say yes, because I’m torn between wanting my kids to have amazing experiences with their buddies, and wanting to make safe choices for them.

I’ve had to develop rules, which include:

  • If I don’t know the child, or the parent, the answer is no. You’d be surprised how many sleepover requests come to my house from children, and parents of children, who are complete strangers. I couldn’t pick them out of a police lineup, I have no idea who the parent is, what they look like, how many children or dogs live in the house, what they do for a living, or whether they have gang ties.
  • If a parent decides at the last moment that the pizza/movie birthday party is now a sleepover, the answer is also no. No. No. No. First of all, WHO LIVES LIKE THIS? Making the decision to extend a nine-year-old’s birthday party into the next day — on a whim — seems insane to me. I can’t work like that. I like plans, and I like having them in advance so I can give my extremely anxious brain enough time to freak out.
  • If there have been multiple playdates, and I’ve gotten to know the kid and the parents and have successfully creeped them on social media, then yes, yes, a thousand times, YES!

When my kid visits your house I want to know that he feels comfortable enough to tell you if he’s scared. If he feels sick. If he’s hungry or thirsty. And I want your kid to feel that way with me before he spends the night.

We’re told to provide our children with the tools they need to engage with the world. We talk to them about stranger danger, and about bullying, and about participating cautiously in cyberspace.

But we’re also told that most child predators are not strangers, and that they’re the next-door neighbour, the basement tenant, the babysitter, the uncle.

As a kid I didn’t notice when I graduated from midnight My Little Pony marathons to sobbing over Heathers and making prank calls in the basement. When my parents said no, which was often, I thought it was just because they were jerks.

Turns out they weren’t jerks. And I’m not a jerk, either. My kids will do sleepovers. But let’s not rush it. Let’s get to know each other a bit, see how they play together for a few hours before they spend the night. How about you invite me in for a coffee while they play so that I don’t have to resort to the social media creep?

That’s a lie. I’ll creep you anyway. I’ve already creeped you. But it’s only because I care.

The mom flu

Once, when I was about 14 I had a sinus infection so severe that I nearly blew my left eye out.

To this day, I have to close my eyes tightly when I blow my nose so as not to accidentally launch my left eye across the room.

It occurred to me over the past several days, eyes closed, blowing furiously into a Kleenex, that I used to be really good at being sick.

As a kid I was sick all the time. I had coughs, fevers, pink eye, strep throat and chicken pox. I even got shingles when I was 13 — a special virus reserved for the elderly — that traced perfect loop-de-loops around my teenaged back.

But at some point it all stopped and I got cocky. My life is a germ factory, and I walk through it daily in short sleeves; my sick offspring literally sneeze into my open mouth and I wake up the next morning without a sniffle.

I rarely get sick, and now I’m out of practice.

Man Flu has its own Wikipedia page, and just recently, Dr. Robert H. Schmerling posted results of a scientific study conducted to determine if this condition is legitimate — if men actually experience more acute flu symptoms than women.

There is no similar Wikipedia page or Harvard study for the Mom Flu, so I feel qualified to discuss the differences between them, and I’ll do so by drawing upon zero actual research, and pure anecdotal evidence. Here is my conclusion: Women rarely give themselves permission to be sick.

Men are no better at math than women. They are no better at driving, at comedy, or at managing money. One only has to turn on the news to recognize that they’re also not that fabulous at running countries.

But they are great at being sick, and most of the women I know (sorry for generalizing ladies) are terrible at it.

This Mom Flu found me at home, alone, on my living room couch, on a cold Tuesday morning, confused and anxious about what was going on.

“What does a sick person even do,” I asked my dog.

He suggested a rousing game of fetch or a trip to the dog park, but there wasn’t enough Kleenex in the world to make that possible, so instead I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, tidied up the boots by the front door, started a load of laundry and took out the recycling. Then when I felt I had “earned” some down time, I made tea and sat on the couch.

Tea done, I got up, put the mug in the sink, and looked around.

“What now,” I kept wondering, as the minutes ticked by on my first official sick day in over a year, completely aware that I was failing, and feeling crummy about it because I hate being bad at shit.

I turned on the TV but it seemed noisy and out of place during the day.

So I folded laundry.

Then I tried to nap, because that’s what I tell my kids to do when they’re sick.

But instead I sat on my bed and stared at my dog, who I eventually took for a walk.

Sick Day No. 1 was over, and I’d accomplished about 20 minutes of productive rest time.

I’ve got a Mom Flu. I’m out of practice, and it’ll take a lot longer than the length of the average flu to figure out how to grant myself permission to relax.

Rainy Sunday reading

My perfect rainy Sunday involves a great book, a fireplace, a soft blanket and a hot cup of coffee.

Oh, and a clean house that smells of pie, and children who are playing together (with educational toys), quietly.

I can’t manage most of this — except the coffee and the book, and usually the coffee is lukewarm by the time I actually get to sit down and drink it. I can almost always carve out a small space in each Sunday for reading, but at this stage in my life, the books I read have to meet certain criteria.

For starters, they can’t be overly complicated. There was a time in my life when I expected a lot from literature. I devoured classics, and poured over Oprah’s book list. These days? I need books that take me away but don’t ask much of me in return.

Oh, and I’d prefer if they don’t make me cry. There’s enough sadness in the world. I’ll come back to the classics and the books that soak up my sobs eventually, but these days I need escape.

So, if escapist fiction — often with a historical bent — with the occasional bit of dystopia thrown in for good measure is up your alley, then read on to find out what I recommend, and I’ll do my best each rainy Sunday to offer a few other suggestions.

(Note: I live in a semi-arid region, so there aren’t as many rainy Sundays as one might wish for)

The catch? You have to share your recommended reads with me. I read a lot, and quickly. I’m always running out of books, so the more recommendations the better.

What I’m reading now

The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley (books 1 through 9)  flaviadellucebooks

“It was one of those glorious days in March when the air was so fresh that you worshipped every whiff of it; that each breath of the intoxicating stuff created such new universes in your lungs and brain that you were certain you were about to explode with sheer joy; one of those blustery days of scudding clouds and piddling showers and gum boots and wind-blown brollies that made you know you were truly alive.” 
Speaking from Among the Bones, Flavia de Luce, No. 5

A friend of mine introduced me to this series. It turns out that despite the fact my friend is way smarter than me, with many letters after her name, she and I have a similar taste in reading. This knowledge makes me feel way smarter than it should.

But Flavia is truly enchanting, and I’m so glad we met. Set in 1950, 11-year-old Flavia is finding her way through the world out of her home base of Buckshaw, a rambling old English mansion. Her mother died when she was a year old, her older sisters either ignore her or are terrible to her, and her father is absent. She’s raising herself under the sometimes watchful eyes of Dogger, her family’s butler who suffers from PTSD. Her best friend is Gladys, her bicycle.

Oh, and did I mention that Flavia has a passion for poisons, and also solves murders?

Alan Bradley is a brilliant writer, one I wish I had discovered sooner, and I’m so excited for you to get to know Flavia if you haven’t already.

The Timothy Wilde Series by Lyndsay Fayelyndsay faye timothy wilde trilogy

The Gods of Gotham, Book 1
Seven for a Secret, Book 2
The Fatal Flame, Book 3

I can’t remember who recommended The Gods of Gotham to me, or whether it was one of those books that just kept popping up on my recommended reading lists, and I eventually just bit the bullet and bought it, but however it happened, I’m grateful.

The Gods of Gotham, set in the 1840s, introduces Timothy Wilde, the best, yet most reluctant, copper star on New York City’s inaugural police force. It’s dirty, and twisted. I pride myself on being a bit of a plot sleuth, able to figure out what’s going to happen before the author shows me, but there are so many twists and turns and gritty bits in this book that I was completely taken by surprise. Wilde is among the only decent humans that Faye reveals, in her exceptionally well-researched period drama.

These are my recommendations for today, what are yours?

Bringing home the (dog) baby

This week our family welcomes its first puppy.

For years I’ve rolled my eyes at the suggestion that raising a dog is similar to raising a child. Often, this comparison comes from people who don’t have children, making scoffing a requirement.

But, having spent the past several weeks planning to bring a puppy into the home, I’ve come to realize that maybe — just maybe — I’ve been too quick to dismiss the similarities. There are a few.

Consider upfront costs, for example.

Dog babies, much like human babies, require a ton of stuff, and as a result, are really, really expensive. My dining room table is buried under bags of dog food, dishes, treats, toys, bedding, crates (one for home, and one for travel), and an endless supply of puppy potty training essentials.

And nobody — not a single person — threw me a puppy shower, so I’m on the hook for all of it.

Then there are the late nights spent coming to terms with the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m bound to screw it up and raise an asshole dog that sniffs crotches, jumps on children, pees everywhere, barks at everything and eats cats and postal workers.

As motherhood approached, I spent many nights tossing and turning, and staring at the ceiling fretting about the same things — minus the crotch-sniffing and cat-eating, of course.

And let’s not forget the unsolicited and often conflicting advice.

“You must follow Cesar Millan’s method, it’s amazing.”

“DO NOT follow Cesar Millan’s method. It’s terrible.”

“Don’t use pee pads.”

“Do use pee pads.”

“You must clicker train. Immediately.”

“Do NOT give him a human name. He is NOT a human.”

When this advice is launched at me, I can’t help but think back to the unsolicited and often passive aggressive advice I fielded during my advent into motherhood, some nine years ago.

“DO NOT give him a soother. You’ll never break him of it.”

“Disposable diapers are great for people who hate the Earth. Do you hate the Earth?”

“No screen time. EVER. Until he’s at least eight.”

“Keep him rear facing until he reaches puberty.”

“Bottle feeding is an option. If you’re terrible.”

“DON’T swaddle him.”

“DO swaddle him.”

“DON’T let him cry it out. EVER!”

“Jeez, just let him cry it out already!”

When I was growing up everyone had dogs, and all any dog needed was a collar, a leash, a bed, a bowl and a belly rub or two. Instead of pee pads and poop bags we had newspapers and shovels. Dogs licked plates, ate scraps, chewed ham bones, and gobbled whatever kibble was on special that week.

Somehow, even without all of the gadgets and canine behavior modification methods, dogs were amazing. They protected us, loved us, and we returned the favour.

Dog ownership has become riddled with pitfalls. The stakes are higher, the expectations greater.

But I’m convinced that, as with raising children, sometimes the simple things matter more than the gadgets and the gimmicks; simple things like consistency, routine, encouragement and praise.

There. Now it’s your turn to roll your eyes.