Fairy Tales & PIE: why we need both in a marriage.

I am a sucker for a good love story. I love a happy ending when the girl gets the boy of her dreams or vice-versa or the girl gets the girl of her dream, or the boy the boy of his dreams. I am, of course, an equal opportunity love story junkie.

The problem with most love stories is that they end at the "and then they lived happily ever after" and we just assume that this is exactly the case. That love conquers all and it is all they need to keep them happy and together until the end of time.

Imagine if we could see the rest of the story. What happens after the Beast turns back to the Prince and he and Belle start having babies. Or after Ariel loses her fins and becomes human to be with Eric and then decides to take a job that requires her to be away a lot. What happens to all that fairy tale love when reality sets in?

In the past six months it has become painfully evident to me that I am in a phase in my life where I am starting to see the statistics about marriage play out around me. I don't know if it is the 'seven year itch' phenomenon or the 8, 9, 10 or 12 year itch... it just seems to be happening  more and more. Every couple is different and has their own struggles to overcome, but I do see a little bit of a recurring theme in a lot of relationships.

It sounds so bloody cliché, but having kids really does change your life. And until it happens to you, it is hard for anyone around you to really "get it".  Everything for the next few years (read FOREVER) is all about the kids. This is not all terrible, it is after all, what you signed up for. You and your partner created these little humans together and now it is your job to love and provide for them. Your focus gets easily pulled to nurturing these new relationships with your children and it can be a steep learning curve to figure out how to love them, love yourself and love your partner all at the same time. Life is about growth and development and it is not only our babies who are doing the growing. We are too - as parents, as partners, and as individuals. If we don't recognize this growth, if we stop paying attention to our life partners, a vital connection can be lost. And then, one day, there is a very sobering realization that we don't recognize the person sitting across the table from us or even the person (ourselves) looking across the table anymore.

I am a huge proponent of the attachment theory of parenting and how important it is for our babies to have that strong sense of attachment and bonding with us from the get go. Dr. Gordon Neufeld, and many others who study human psychology and development, say that attachment is THE most significant and pre-eminent need of human beings. Connections and a sense of belonging are what make us human. And if we lose those connections in our most important and intimate relationships, if we try to replace them with things or focus our connections away from our partners, we risk losing those relationships altogether.

If life and the kids and the laundry and the yard work and work work and Facebook time and gaming and working out and taking everyone to their activities and whatever else you've got going on, is taking up ALL OF YOU, it is doing so at an expense. We may think that that expense is being tired all the time and not having time for ourselves, let alone our partners, but I am telling you now, that NO, that is not it. The expense is the subtle, slipping away of trust and confidence and the very foundation that supports our relationships.

It is very easy to fall into patterns of behaviour when our babies and toddlers are small and require so much from us. We have a schedule for naps and for feedings, a routine for bedtime, a weekly colour-coded calendar full of music/swim/parent&me/gymnastics/art classes. Not to mention all the rest of the work that needs to be done at home, at the office, at the home-office or what have you. I don't know about you, but I remember so many days that I would forgot to even feed myself, let alone have a conversation or a meal with my husband. Being an attached and connected parent is a wonderful thing, but if you don't continue to nurture the original connection and attachment that MADE your child(ren), then where does that leave you?

I just finished reading Brené Brown's book, "Daring Greatly". In the chapter about Debunking the Vulnerability Myths, one paragraph really struck me. In it Brené talks about the betrayal of disengagement:

"When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears - the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can't point to the source of our pain - there's no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness. It can feel crazy-making."

My husband and I have always had a little bit of a relationship radar in place that lets us know when life is getting the best of us. I am pretty sure that everyone has some kind of early warning system in their own relationship. It all comes down to how much or how little attention is paid to it. The increased bickering, the loss of physical connection, the muttering under the breath, being super sensitive to every little thing said to each other - these are the warnings that we can sometimes overlook or not really think too much about, but this is just a small list of the tiny betrayals that can build on each other. And if no one is paying attention to the physical, intellectual and emotional needs of their partner (I think I'll call that P.I.E.!) than going through the motions of a marriage or life partnership will never leave anyone feeling fulfilled. Every little hurt starts to adds up and disconnection is the sum result.

We've all heard it said before, love takes work. It is a choice we have to make every day. It takes a fair amount of vulnerability too. And for a lot of people, accessing that vulnerable place in themselves is a major hurdle. It's a risk to say to the person you are supposed to be totally in love with that something is off. That THIS, the way things are RIGHT NOW, is not working for you. We'll do a lot to avoid these kinds of conversations and our fears only serve to push us further away from each other. We work more, take extra shifts, spend more time on Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter. We become obsessed with perfection and our focus becomes on how we look, how the house looks, and how the world sees us. We drown our fears in booze or food. We live with what Brené Brown calls "scarcity" and become governed by self-talk and thoughts of never being "enough" of anything to anyone. It's the mother of all shame spirals and the only way out of it is to face those fears, be your most vulnerable self and start paying attention.

For me, that meant finding a good therapist to help me face my own negative self-talk and the ways that I avoid my own vulnerability. Jane* has made me realize that I can choose to change the way I think and I don't have to revert to my default avoidance setting of "fixing" everyone else's lives around me and ignoring my own problems. It has also meant having some very honest conversations with my husband and of us sharing our greatest fears within our relationship with each other. Trust me, this was not an easy task for either of us, but I truly believe that it has made all the difference. We are both more aware and focused on making sure that we are both getting our fair share of the P.I.E. more so now than ever before.

I said it above, but it bears repeating:

Attachment, connection and belonging are the pre-eminent needs of all human beings.

We are all doing our very best to ensure that we are nurturing that kind of relationship with and for our children and most of us are getting pretty good at this attachment parenting stuff. We need to remember that we too are humans and have those same basic and vital needs. To satisfy them within our significant and intimate relationships, we all need to remember to keep working on our ATTACHMENT MARRIAGE-ING and keep the focus on our own happily ever afters!


P.S. You all know how much I love Pink and she always know exactly what to say way better in song version...

















I just spent the last 2 hours in a cramped 3-bed hospital room with my 82-year-old Godmother.

This is the woman my daughter is named after. The woman who was a best friend to my grandmother, a kind of surrogate mother for my own mother and the woman at whose home I have the fondest memories of my childhood.

She is a pretty amazing woman and I am so incredibly thankful that she has always been a part of my life.

Talking with her today, we covered the usual. How the kids and Natural Urban Dad are doing, how goes the progress on the new house, and the usual chit-chat. And then the conversation took a turn that it often does with her.

She is ready to die. She actually wants to die.

Seven years ago this December, the love of her life, the man she was married to for 60 years, the man who left her a love note tucked under her pillow every day, passed away.

She wants to be with him again.

A few months ago, she had a fall at her home and her son found her unconscious on the floor (he woke up suddenly at 3 AM and told his wife he had to go check on his mom). She told me that during those few hours that she was technically in a coma, that she was at peace. She was floating. She was on her way to see her love.

And then she woke up.

Today we also talked a lot about her life in Europe as a child, how her mom died suddenly at the age of 38 when she was only nine and of her life during and after the war. She showed me her engagement ring and told me the story of how my Godfather had to buy the gold on the black market and designed the bow-shaped ring himself. She told me of all the love notes and little presents that he would leave for her under her pillow, for no other reason than just because he loved her so much.

This is the stuff that great love stories are made of people!

And then we started talking about my grandmother. Helen (we never called her Grandma) was also an amazing woman. All 90 pounds of her.  My Godparents where the closest thing to family that she had and they know the most about her life. I only know tidbits. If I have one regret in this life it is that I did not spend more time with her and get her to tell me more about her life.

You see, I do not know who my grandfather is. Neither does my mother. Helen was a governess in the late 1940's for a rich family in the south of France. She fell in love with the married chauffeur and proceeded to get herself knocked up at the spinster-y age of 42. This is as much as I know. And as I found out today, this seems to be as much as anyone knows. I assume this situation was quite the scandal in those days and in 1952, two years after my mother was born my grandmother and my mother immigrated to Canada. Once here, I do know that there was a short marriage to another man, who died of a heart attack and then I think Helen just swore of off men forever.

What I found out today, is that my dear grandmother, this tiny woman whom I have held on such a pedestal my whole life, who expected so much from me, who was always so prim and proper, was actually quite the goof. My Godmother regaled me today with stories about Helen. I heard about her walking around nude all the time. Answering the door with nothing on and with nary a care in the world. We had quite the giggle today about her many naked antics.

Why am I going on and on about all of this?


That is why.

I still only have tidbits of my grandmother's life. I wish that she had journaled more, that she had written down her thoughts, her experiences, her perspective of being a single mother in the 1950's and 60's. I wish I could have known her more, understood her more and that I had more of her to remember.

My Godfather wrote his memoirs and his children had them bound into a hardcover book for him before he passed away. I asked my Godmother for a copy of that book today. It was all written in French, so it might take me a while to read it. But read it I will.

Sometimes I hear people make disparaging remarks about being a blogger. Oh, you are not a writer, you are just a blogger. And I realized something today. I am both. And I am neither.  I write not only for myself, but for future generations too.

And this is my legacy.

This blog is the way that MY grand children will know me when I am not around anymore. They will know the funny me, the sad me, the advocate me, the Mommy me and the rant-y me! They will be able to read about how their parents were born, read about how and why we did things "in the old days" and see their parents through my eyes (and my camera lens).

They will be able to see how we built our dream home, the home that their parents grew up in, the one that they will get to come to for sleep-overs and holidays and birthdays and anniversaries.

Maybe one day I or the kids will take this blog and make it into a book. Not necessarily for mass production, just for the family to have  a tangible connection to the woman I am/will be/was. So I will write. I will write for me, for my kids and for my grand kids. I will write for the women who came before me, for my mother and for my grandmother...

...and I will write  for my Godmother. May she soon find peace and her one true love waiting for her with open arms and an eternal love note.






Bizarro World and a Foot Rub

Something weird happened last Sunday. And by weird I mean, like bizarro world, everything is backwards weird.

I worked the Mommylicious trade show in Edmonton on Sunday. I was on my feet from 9 Am until 4:30 PM fitting mamas and daddies with beautiful baby carriers and running the show's stroller check (check in your stroller and 'check out' a baby carrier while you shop). I also got to have some amazing sleepy 6-week-old snuggles with my friend's sweet baby girl who slept on me for about 2 hours! It was a great day.

And a long day.

Natural Urban Dad was home with the kids all day and I got a few texts from him as the day went on about what they were doing. Seems the kids were having a day of "let's not listen to Daddy and therefore not get to go to "Fish Mouth" with him." (Fish Mouth is what they call the undersea adventure area at West Edmonton Mall).

I know that he too was having a long day with the kids.

We all met for dinner at our favourite neighborhood sushi place after I was all done at the show, the kids behaved themselves rather well and then we headed home.

Once in the house, Natural Urban Dad proceeded to immersed himself into cleaning the kitchen.

All I wanted to do was sit down and put up my feet (which were totally KILLING ME) for five minutes and close my eyes after a long day, but no, the kids needed some mommy time.

And it was bath time and someone obviously wanted to be alone with the dishes.

And then it hit me!!

Like a weird bizarro world smack up side the head!

Natural Urban Dad was doing exactly what I usually do when he gets home.

I turn over the kids to him with an "I am DONE!" expression on my face and start cleaning up or cooking dinner.  And I fully admit that for the most part I don't even think about how long or hard his day has been.

So I sucked it up, bathed the kids, got them ready for bed, read them a story and tucked them in.

And then I sat on the couch and asked for a foot rub.

I don't know if I have a real point to this post, except to say that NO ONE EVER WINS in this. Men and women have always had and will continue to have the "you have no idea how hard I work all day" discussions no matter who is with the kids and who is on the job. For me, I guess this day just really emphasized this dynamic in what we do at our house and made me realize that I need to appreciate my partner and what his day is like just as much as I expect him to appreciate all that I do in and around the house and with the kids every day.

We made our choices as a family. I would be the stay at home parent and he would be the working one. A lot of couples make this choice. It is important to keep the gratitude in our lives and for each other and remember to not take one another for granted. Each of us has an important job to do for the well-being and success of this family.

This past weekend was my reminder of this. Did Natural Urban Dad see the same thing? Maybe he did.

'Cause it was one very long and very nice foot rub!!