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Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Daughter and Me






My husband has been quite unwell the past couple of weeks. He hurt his back and, as anyone with a bad back knows, the pain can be debilitating. I was planning to blog on this subject because there has definitely been some laughter through the tears, but my daughter asked me not to. She told me on the phone yesterday, "Don't you dare write about Flabio being sick." I'm not sure why she's so concerned about this, but in deference to her, I won't tell you about him or why I've taken to calling him Frankenstein--or Frank for short--this week. Instead, I'll talk about her.


My daughter's name is Rachel and that's a fairly recent photo of her above. Some people who knew me at that age say she looks a lot like I did, but I say that's bullshit. I never looked that good. My daughter is 20 and she's in 3rd year of university. And I adore her.


I want to get that straight up front because she has told me that she thinks I portray her in an unfavorable light in my blog. I don't mean to. I just think she says things that strike me funny. I don't look down on her or think she's stupid and I don't want you to either. I am proud of her, in awe of her, and wish I had been more like her when I was young. From time to time she just amuses me and I like to relate some of those anecdotes. So when I tell stories about my kids always remember I tell them out of love. I find humor in observing the naivete of youth. I just want to be clear about that.


Many summers ago, I took my kids for a week to Northern Saskatchewan for a few days of wakeboarding lessons with a well-known coach. The lessons were for Rachel, her friend, Chelsea--who often vacationed with us, and my son, David. Rachel was always the one most "beat-up" at the end of the day. Once I was in the boat with the coach and he explained to me why that was the case.


"Most people," he said, "like Chelsea and David, let go of the rope when they get in trouble. Rachel will never let go. She wants to recover if she's going down. She thinks she will recover. That's why she does these face-plants. I've rarely seen such tenacity in a student."


She has an unusual mental toughness. Rachel's brother and I used to joke that from a young age she very much resembled the ground commander played by Ed Harris in the movie Apollo 13. The one who holds everything together when others are in a panic. She has courage and composure. When she was 4, she once offered me her views about the child custody arrangement I had with her father while I was driving her somewhere. "I don't think it's fair that I stay with you all the time and only see him every other weekend. I think I should live with him and visit you every other weekend." I'm glad she couldn't see the expression on my face, but I just said, "I hear what you're saying. Right now you're too young to make that decision, so your Papa and I have to decide what we think is best. When you're older you can have more input into the decision-making."


She got it in her head recently that she wanted to do "tree-planting" for a summer job and no other job would do. Well, that's what she's going to do this summer in northern British Columbia near Prince George. Back-breaking work in the middle of fucking nowhere with a crew of 25 strangers in the bush. Definitely not for the faint-hearted. Whatever happened to kids working at the local Dairy Queen?


In 2003 I broke my back in a riding accident. When I got a big ugly clamshell brace like this, Rachel's first comment was "Oh mom, what will you wear to work?" It proved to be a very intelligent observation because what to wear to work became a major problem.


When my 2nd husband moved out, Rachel was quite broken up for a while. She was especially worried about me.


Once she tearfully said, "Mom, you're over 40, you're hair is grey, you're overweight, and you smoke. Do you think any man will ever go out with you again?"


That made me laugh then and it makes me laugh now. She was so concerned, so worried, and when you're young, you can't necessarily see the attractive qualities in a 40+ individual. I told her not to worry about it, that plenty of men would think I was a good catch and a hot tamale. And guess what! I got married again.


A few years ago when I wasn't there, Rachel got a bad concussion on school grounds playing sports that was totally mismanaged by the school administration, namely, they did NOTHING. Only by the grace of God, and the intervention of a friend of mine, was she prevented from driving away and going to ANOTHER athletic practice and instead, taken screaming to the doctor. A few days later, loaded for bear, I went to her school and told them what I thought of their handling or rather non-handling of the situation. Rachel was furious with me then, and I think she's probably still mad about it now. [Of course, my job is to be the parent and do what I think is best for the welfare of the child, not to be her girlfriend and do what she tells me to.] She softened her position slightly when her brother--who played rugby in university--told her that they had ambulances standing by at the field during a game and that all concussions or head injuries are required to go to the hospital for evaluation. A few years later she told me that she realized that I was right. She was still mad at how I handled it, but she knew I was right. I respect her for that. I believe that the ability to say, "I was wrong" is one of the most important things that a person has to learn to get ahead in life and to have productive relationships with other people.


Tomorrow is my birthday, and that reminds me that the nicest gifts I ever received from Rachel (and her brother) were home-made coupon books that she gave me with coupons for things like "I'll wash your car" or "I'll get you whatever drink you want at Starbucks" or "I'll cook dinner". I think things like that are heartfelt and creative and much more valuable than a gift bought with money that children don't have to spare. Son and daughter below, 2009







The kindest and most special moment I recall with my daughter happened about a year ago. We were alone on a Saturday afternoon, and I was very upset. Without going into detail I was overwhelmed with anger and frustration about something unrelated to her, and I burst into tears in front of her. I have made it a personal policy never to cry in front of my kids. I have failed a couple of times, but not often. But this was over-the-top. I SOBBED like a 4-year-old and was inconsolable. She came to me and comforted me in the same way that I have comforted her over the years. "Oh don't be sad, Mom. It'll be okay. Come sit with me and tell me all about it." She cancelled her plans to go out and spent all afternoon with me trying to make me laugh. This is my daughter.






High School Grad Photo, 2007


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3 Comments:

  • A beautiful post about a beautiful young woman, by her hot tamale mom. Rachel is indeed a daughter to be proud of, and she is very much like you, Cynthia. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Great blog!

    By Blogger Alice, At March 7, 2010 at 8:07 AM  

  • Thank u for sharing this great story about your daughter. It sounds like she has grown in a confident and self-assured human being. I'm sure being 20 she things these posts are about her. Hopefully as she matures she will see it for what it is: it is about your love for her. After all what is the point of a having a gift if you don't share it with others?

    By OpenID seankinney1968, At March 7, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

  • Great post, great daughter, glad I found your blog. :) Don't worry about the tree-planting job, she'll be fine. I grew up in the PG area and tree-planted many years ago. Hard work, great money, interesting people to meet. It's almost tree-planter season again.

    Cyndi in BC

    By Blogger Cyndi in BC, At March 11, 2010 at 7:56 AM  

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