Category Archives: Parenting

Only Child celebrates her son’s birthday

Martin outside Allans Restaurant on Mother's Day

Martin and I outside Allans Restaurant on Mother’s Day

Today is my son’s birthday and we plan to celebrate this evening over dinner. Just the three of us, including his girlfriend, at an Italian Restaurant. Wine and pasta or maybe wine and pizza. And conversation.

My son, Martin, gives me a lot to be thankful for. Too much to list, so just a few. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but he paid for a hotel room for my then boarder, her cat and me for a couple of days in late December 2013 because of the ice storm in Toronto and its resulting power failure at my home. He’s there when my computers and their programs act up. He helps financially with some of his gifts – things I wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. He doesn’t forget my birthday or mother’s day and takes me out for brunch or dinner. And we always celebrate the Christmas season with dinner here.

It’s not just a lot of food and meals. I think deep down it’s the mother-son connection. Some mothers and sons (or mothers and daughters for that matter) either have severed connections or the connections are shaky or gone sour. Perhaps the child grew up to be a criminal or drug addict, or worse. Perhaps the mother abandoned her child. You can probably imagine all sorts of heartbreaking scenarios.

Many of us raise our kids the best we can and sometimes are surprised when they turn out okay. In my case, Martin’s father and I split up when Martin was quite young. But – and it’s a big but – neither of us abandoned him. Martin had equal time with both parents. Not easy at first when my ex and I were fighting, but it smoothed out after a few years. This time with both parents gave Martin a more rounded growing-up period and hopefully with no feelings of abandonment. For my part, I tried to be fair and let my son work out a lot of his growing-up pains himself, often offering the listening ear and a few suggestions.

Not that there wasn’t some discipline involved when necessary, but never extreme. For example, when I had to ground him when he was 16 for something (for privacy’s sake, I’m not saying what, except it wasn’t drugs), I used common sense. He was grounded, except from school (obvious) but the other exception was he could still practice and perform at gigs with the rock band he played in. Why? Because there were others involved here and it wouldn’t be fair to them. Parenting is give and take – on both sides. I’m not saying I was the perfect parent. Far from it.

Something that came out of his growing-up years – he matured in thoughts and actions early. Others have commented on this. And he has a lot of common sense and logic in him.

But also lots of creativity.

Now he plays in another band (Beams, see http://beamstheband.com/) and is a computer programming expert.

But when you get right down to it the continuing love, the continuing bond is what’s important.

Happy birthday, Martin.

Cheers.

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Martin Crawford, Mother and Child, Only child, Parenting, Sharon A. Crawford

Only child looks at responsibility and integrity

Only Child's late mom who taught her honesty and integrity.

Lately I’ve been whacked by people’s irresponsibility. Friends, colleagues promise something and then back out without telling me or let me know way after the fact. For example, I just held my annual Open House Christmas Party – most of those I invited let me know if they were coming or not (those who kept silent either way are another story); a few had to cancel at the last minute due to illness and one because her flight got her back home too late – but they all called me. That is the courteous thing to do. But some  of those who promised to attend were no-shows. Okay, so you’re thinking, it’s only a party. True, but it makes me wonder if this is their usual modus operandi for everything. What does that say about them? Wouldn’t it be better to be honest here? What ever happened to honesty and integrity and common courtesy?

My late mother had an honesty and integrity code. I call it her Ten Rules of Honesty. Some of them were a bit weird but she sure taught me the importance of  having ethical and moral codes. The one that fits the closest for my current situation would be show your truth by your actions, or perhaps you show your truth by your actions or inactions.

Civility has taken a drastic nosedive the past 15, maybe 20 or even 25 years. I’m not referring to kids and teens here. The “culprits” (for want of a better word) in my situation are over 30, in some cases well over 30.  So, I can’t blame it on a generation-raising factor or a society gone lax in its attitude or outlook. In fact, one of the most polite children I know is my nearly-seven-year old neighbour next door. He is thoughtful (even brought flowers for me when he came to my party with his mom) and came up to me at the end to thank me for inviting him to my party. Even another friend noticed his politeness and acknowledged him for it.

So, maybe we (and I’ve been guilty a few times, too) “big people” need to step back from our over-busy world, take a deep breath, pull up our socks (or stockings or leotards) and try to be more considerate of others. Not RSVPing to a party may be minor in itself. But what if the situation were more serious – perhaps a business commitment or in the personal vein, promising to take your elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment and then not only not showing up but not bothering to call and tell him or her.

Are we turning into a bunch of uncivil uncaring louts? Maybe we need to not just get a life but get back the integrity  in our life.

For what it’s worth.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only child writes

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Filed under Betrayal, Christmas, Civility, Consideration, Integrity, Life learning, Only child, Parenting, Responsibility

Only Child learns from teaching memoir writing

Sharon reading and teaching

Only Child teaching workshop

The past couple of weeks I was immersed in teaching memoir writing workshops at several Toronto public library branches. One workshop was a straightforward memoir writing gig; the other was called Blogging Your Memories and involved a PowerPoint presentation. Both have roots in my childhood, particularly with one thing about my mother – she showed me how to teach and that I could teach.

In my February 12, 2010  post, https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/only-child-teaches-mom-to-play-piano/ I talked about teaching my Mom to play the piano when I was 13. But that same year I had a grade 8 history class project and Mom was instrumental in  helping me make it a success.

As I write in my memoir, You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons:

I decided my lesson would tell the story about how each province entered Confederation and I was going to make it more interesting than a history book. I wanted maps, drawings and background history of the history. As she usually did with my school projects, Mom dug in and accumulated some of the research materials, a habit she’d picked up when I needed information about other countries for school projects. In those Internetless days, Mom visited consulates in downtown Toronto as well as travel agencies. In grade six, she had ordered the whole collection of the World Book Encyclopedia, from a door-to-door salesman. But World Book was no scam – it had detailed coloured maps and detailed text. I used it as part of the background for my Confederation lesson.

After I put the whole lesson together, Mom and I do several dry runs.

I prop up my maps on the dining room table. Mom stands at the other end in the living room and I start my spiel. We also do the dry run in the kitchen, where I go through the whole lesson, using my illustrated props and pointing with her long dressmaking ruler. She doesn’t tell me to talk slower or speak up; she listens, nods and smiles. When I am finished, she doesn’t need to say anything. I know I’ve done a good job and pleased her.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

Thanks to Mom’s patience and encouragement, the lesson went over very well in class. I think that’s where I got my love of teaching, although like my Mom I didn’t go into the teaching profession per se. I got into it via my writing and editing. I continue to learn lessons as I teach.

Each of my Memoir Writing Workshops had either a father and daughter duo or a mother and daughter duo.  Each daughter was helping her parent write his or her memoir and came to the workshop for some direction on how to do this. My approach here was to focus but also to remain open enough to be creative – a fine balancing act which I’ve had to learn in writing my memoir. The child/parent duos reminded me that without our parents there might be no family memoir and also showed me (and also reminded me) the beauty of parent and child working together on a project.

I also learned that there are many circumstances that evoke memoir – from the funny situation of two friends posing with a big wooden bird to a woman who lived through the Holocaust and had no family pictures except the ones inside her head. When we did the picture exercise, she had to go within  for hers and taught me that not all picture memories are in print or electronic. Many live on in our hearts and souls.

I also learned that there are different approaches to writing a memoir. One participant went in for the more creative way to write her memoir. Many wanted to write their whole life instead of focusing on one area but I hope I at least showed them how to focus on that, rather than change what they write about.

The Blogging Your Memories workshop was a whole other situation. First, I had to relearn Power Point and then how to do a presentation. I followed the old journalist’s rule – ask, ask, ask. Three experts, including my computer techie son, got bombarded with questions but I listened. And I put together my workshop and did a trial run at the library with the librarian’s help. At the actual workshop only one computer glitch occurred. Fast fingers here tried to go back too fast in slides and the program shut down. Fortunately Auto Save came to the rescue and I could proceed.  But my students taught me much with their rich range of topics to blog and all their questions kept me on my toes. One participant gave me a real workout with categories and tags for your blog posts.

Each workshop had around a dozen participants and the librarians were also pleased with the workshops. They want me to come back in the spring and do more.

I will oblige. Besides sharing my knowledge I will also learn more. All thanks to my Mom’s incentive and encouragement.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Life learning, Memoir writing, Only child, Only child memoir, Parenting, Teachers, Teaching

Only child on gratitude and not

 

Only Child and barbed wire July 1950

 

The Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday prompted me to think about gratitude. The self-help and new age gurus tell us we need to express our gratitude daily – write it down, maybe five things we are grateful for. Period. Well, I do a different take on it. Yes, I do a daily gratitude expression of what I’m thankful for, but I also add what I’m not grateful for in my life. I need to get that balance – life is not all good; neither is it all bad. I need to deal in reality. Blame it on my journalist background where you try to be unbiased and get a balance in your stories – unless you’re writing an Op-Ed (Opinion-Editorial) piece. Or it probably goes back to my childhood, to my mother, with her somewhat offbeat take on honesty.

In my memoir I have a chapter called “Mom’s Ten Rules of Honesty” and after I go through that I add:

Mother’s honesty didn’t just encompass telling the truth; it covered people’s basic integrity and how they dealt with the screw-ups, bad times and bad luck that always pop up in life. Nothing is certain except taxes and death, but the trick is to wind yourself through the days, months and years until you die – without falling into the muddy waters.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

Or it could also spin off from my grade 6 teacher who told us, “I’ll give credit where credit is due.” Over the years I’ve added “and discredit where discredit is due.”

Now I can hear some of you thinking, “Why doesn’t she just accept what is?” That is good to a certain point. However, if we all accepted everything in our life then certain big changes would never happen. For example, what would have happened (or not) if  Terry Fox merely accepted he had cancer in his leg and left it at that? What if he didn’t take his cancer a big leap forward and start his walk for cancer research? Just doing the proverbial lying down and accepting our conditions in life and doing nothing about them doesn’t help us or others. Methinks if we do that we often end up ranting and complaining about our plight in life.

Of course we can’t go out and try to change everthing. The key may be the old serenity prayer  which goes something like this – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I don’t read anything here  about accepting everything.

And so I do my gratitude/non-gratitude list daily. And I do work to change what I can in the latter. But sometimes  it is a long road getting there.

What do others think?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Family, Gratitude, Life learning, Only child, Only child memoir, Parenting, Teaching

Only child tries to learn trust lessons

Mom and Dad together

I’ve learned that trust is elusive and well, not to be trusted. I’m not sure where the exact origin of this is but I know that finding out the hard way that my Dad had cancer had a lot to do with it. In my memoir I write:

Two months after his 59th birthday, Dad goes for his annual chest x-ray. A few weeks later I hear my parents whispering outside the closed doors of my bedroom and the hallway.

“Your Dad has tuberculosis,” mother tells me the next day. “He has to go into the hospital, probably for an operation. But he’ll be fine. TB is curable.”

She’s my mother, so I believe her…

“He’ll be ok,” Mom says. “They removed half a lung.”

“The good news,” Dad later says as he recuperates in the hospital, “is I can still drink. The bad news is I can’t smoke anymore.”

But bad news spreads like locusts, especially inaccurate stories told to me by my mother and which comfort me, only to be crushed by the Bully. Soon after Dad returns home and to work, the Bully chases me out of the schoolyard.

“Your Dad has cancer.” She taunts me between huffs and puffs. She waddles onto the sidewalk and tries to catch up to me.

“No, it was TB. You’re lying.” I glance at her over my shoulder, then my feet pick up the pace.

“Nah, your parents lied. My Mom said your Dad has cancer.”

She’s lying. She’s got to be lying. She seems closer to my back, so I detour into Holy Cross Church for solace.

“My mother said it was TB. My mother doesn’t lie. Please God.” I kneel on the wood-hard kneelers and hang onto the pew in front of me. “Please God. He had TB. My mother said so.”

My pleading does not carve consolation into my heart. Instead, betrayal is born, and it grows up as offshoots that make no sense to anyone at the time.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, Part 1, copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

When the second round of cancer occurred two years later, Mom didn’t hide anything. But there are other mitigating factors.

I mentioned in my previous post about friends not being supportive. Of course, not every friend is like that and some of the non-supporters aren’t that way consistently. We all have issues and problems to deal with and I try to consider this – but not always, not when I seem to be boxed in a corner with a dilemma. The phrase from the old Ghosbuster movie comes to mind. “Who do you call?”

Maybe I need a problem-buster.

Then there’s this God-religion thing. Perhaps some of it has to do with being brainwashed growing up Catholic back in the 1950s and 1960s when the Baltimore Catechism reigned supreme (pun intended) and everything was in black and white.   Then reality hit and from my late teens I started questioning things. And continue to do so. But now I have more opinions.

Although no longer a Catholic, I make a point of daily giving gratitude for my blessings and also mentioning what has happened that I’m not grateful for (some of my illnesses come under this heading). I also still pray to God, but I seem to be stuck in “ask and you shall receive.” I don’t expect to get everything I ask for, but some things are very important and when things get messed up here, I get upset. A friend has an explanation for this type of scenario. She says “God is busy with other things.”

Maybe.

So, I keep relearning that it is me I have to trust and count on. That’s where it starts. How can you trust others if you can’t trust yourself?

What do others say?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only child writes


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Filed under Betrayal, Maturity, Only child, Parenting, Prayer, Siblings and friends, Trust

Only Child looks at larger families

Some of Only Child's cousins

A recent story in Times Magazine by Lauren Sandler, “The Only Child: Debunking the Myths,” has raised the ire of some readers, some with large families. (See http://www.algemeiner.com/generic.asp?ID=6709 for one of these). Personally, I could never have raised a large number of children – I didn’t (and still don’t) have the stamina or the resources (support and finances). But… and here it comes… others can do it. I’m not saying everyone with many children makes a good parent – heck, some parents of only children aren’t good parents, either. And I  must admit, when I see an unruly bunch of siblings acting up and the mother and/or father seems to have no control, I wonder “what were they thinking?” However, I have seen a lone child acting up in a supermarket and mom or dad unable to control him or her. So, it is really a two-sided story.

What do you think?

Although I grew up an only child, I had cousins from large families and I sometimes found it disconcerting inter-acting with them. But I also had some good times with them. In my memoir-in-the works, I write about visiting my eight cousins on my godmother’s farm. Remember, I’m a city gal.

As the sun slides down in the evening, Jimmie and Karl decide to teach me how to chase the cows home. Jimmie stretches the barbed-wired fence wide so I can climb through without ripping my arms or shorts. I appreciate that because back home, while tearing after my friends, I tried vaulting a fence and the rump of my shorts stuck and ripped.

Once through the barbed wire, I stare at big beasts with mottled black and white skin and bodies remaining stationary, except at either end – the tails sliding back and forth keep me mesmerized. How can they chew the weeds and grass bits so matter-of-factly while their eyes seem to dig deep into my head? They must know how frightened I feel.

“They won’t hurt you,” Jimmie says. “Just don’t run at them and startle them. Come on.”

Jimmie strolls forward, as if he has no concerns and Karl follows. I guess I see the cows through their eyes or maybe I’m frightened they will find out that I’m a scaredy-cat. I follow, picking my way around the black deposits scattered throughout the pasture. The cows become benign pets that we must set on the right track. We chase the herd from one field to another. Karl opens the gate – and the cows come home, not quite roller-skating, but close to it, because they suddenly surge in the gateway, and settle down for the night in the pasture by the barn.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, Part 1, copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

We cousins didn’t always get along perfectly. Sometimes the numbers “won” over the only. There was the time a couple of the girl cousins and some cousins on their dad’s side of the family  (not blood-related to me) played a trick. They convinced me that one of these other cousins was a twin to an elderly lady in the household. And despite her looking decades older, I believed them. Of course, they had fun at my expense when they told me the truth. I felt humiliated, stupid and gullible.  As I think about it now, I believe part of my gullibility was due to being an only child with little experience in sibling to-ing and fro-ing. But I suppose things like this happen in most families with more than one child.

As for that Times story, check it out at http://www.time.com/time/ (enter “The Only Child: Debunking the Myths” in the Search Box).

Cheers.

Sharon

Only child writes

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Filed under Cousins, Family Size, Hereditary, Only child, Only child memoir, Parenting

Only child gets gardening gene from mom

Dad standing under Mom's rose archway

I’m convinced I got the gardening bug from my mom – with a smidgeon from my dad and his proprietary outlook on lawns and trees. In spring, summer and fall I live for my garden so you can imagine how I feel in the bleak days of winter when everything is dead outside. Sure new-fallen snow is beautiful but it is nothing compared to the colours of flowers, the fragrance of herbs and the yummy vegetables and fruit in my garden. Right now I am above head level in black raspberries and I don’t even mind going out in the heat (well, early morning and late evenings) and picking them. I give away some of the extra raspberries  to my friends and also freeze some raspberries. My neighbour’s six-year old son has developed a fascination for picking berries and it is not uncommon for him and his friends to bang on my front door and ask, “Can we pick some raspberries?”

It all started when I was little -maybe around three and a half when I remember Mom and Dad digging in the garden in spring and I would watch…

On this April day in 1952 Mom and Dad are halfway through their spring ritual of turning the soil from fence to hedge. I cart out my small shovel and dig in, but I make only small dents compared to Mom and Dad’s efforts. Mostly I remember hovering, watching and listening.

“Albert,” Mom says. “Be careful around the strawberries.”

She thrusts her shovel, no nonsense-style into the soft sand. Her black oxfords sink deep and the once-white socks are splattered with sand. She hides her body under a flowered housedress. Having a baby at 41 and the indignities and intricacies of middle age has remodelled her into Fraulein Frump.

You couldn’t blame her for taking precautions when digging. The boys behind us, including Tom in my class who defended me against The Bully, stole the strawberries and raspberries, or so mother said. She never caught them in the act, but the remains not present the day after added up to more than a hungry posse of black birds or sparrows. And years later, when Tom and I reconnected, he admitted to the deed.

Then the planting begins. My clumsy digits bury the tiny carrot seed in the row of sand, which my mother carefully indents using the rake handle. When she hauls out the bean seed packet, she has her instructions ready.

“This is the top of the bean.” She pats it with her index finger. “See, it’s curved in. That’s where the bean plant will sprout. You plant that part up or the bean will grow down.”

And so, I swallow my impatience and become the obedient daughter – please the parent and the world will bow to you. I have a lot to learn but I suppose my young age and the results of my gardening actions could excuse my naïve expectations in life. The beans usually grew…up, up towards the heavens, if you believe in fairy tales like Jack and the Beanstalk.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

I guess it was Mom’s farm background that pre-disposed her to growing a lot of vegetables and fruit. And yes, she had many raspberry bushes but hers were red raspberries and she just knew how, when and what to prune. Me, I know when (fall) and sort of know what (the dead branches, obviously) but whatever I do or don’t do the bushes seem to increase the next spring –  not complaining – I am grateful. I don’t know where Mom got the original raspberry bushes, but mine grew wild in my Aurora backyard and when I moved back to Toronto, a friend helped me dig up three plants and transplant them to my Toronto backyard. The strange thing is these bushes grew to below my knees in the Aurora backyard but here, well as I said above, they are giants. What do I expect living on a street with the word “garden” in it? I have truly come to my calling, my avocation.

My Mom didn’t just grow edible plants. Sometimes I think her rosebushes were her babies.

The rosebushes spread everywhere – front, back and if Mom could nurture roses through asphalt, the driveway would no doubt harbour a rosebush. Below the veranda, in the corner by the driveway, Mom has installed a trellis. When I sprawl in the green Muskoka chair on the veranda, my nose inhales the sweet aroma of the yellow roses poking through the trellis.

In the ‘50s, we could hold a wedding in our backyard at 139 – the deep red roses climb and entwine around the white archway attached to the white picket fence beside the driveway. As I yank open the gate, the fragrance overwhelms me. But my kid eyes absorb the colour, and as I skip through the backyard, I count the rosebushes winding through trellises against the back of the house, the side of our garage and the neighbour’s garage. My mother’s roses grow high and their scent permeates my nose, skin and right into the core of my heart and soul. She constantly frets over a hybrid tea whose blossoms exemplify the species name, although I don’t recall the actual name of the rose, just Mom standing by the fence and fingering the rose-coloured petals.

“The leaves have too much blackspot,” she says. “And this rose is finished.” Snip, snip go her clippers.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

My garden is a mixture of perennials, including roses, vegetables and herbs and like my mother’s garden, my garden is all over. But I mix. One of my tomato plants grows next to a rosebush in front; I have lamb’s ears, yarrow and black-eyed Susan in with my vegetables. Although I have a herb garden with lavender, parsley, sage, oregano, echinacea, basil, blue flax. chives and rosemary, I also have chives and sage growing in my flower bed at the bottom of my veranda and basil, rosemary and leaf lettuce growing in a big pot on my veranda just outside my front door. This makes it quick pickings for dinner garnishes, especially on rainy days.

I think I’ve expanded this gardening gene I inherited from Mom. But the fruits of this inheritance may have stopped with me. My son has no interest in gardening. That is left to his girlfriend – she has the potted plants on their balcony, including a nasturtium and pepper plant I gave her.

As for Dad’s proprietary gardening, let’s just say he kept the lawn cut and watered and gave my girlfriends and I “hell” when we yanked the leaves off the trees for “food” for our dolls. At least we didn’t steal the strawberries.

Pink Yarrow and Red Rose by curb

Cheers.

Sharon

only child writes

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Filed under Gardening, Hereditary, Only child, Only child memoir, Parenting