What sort of participant am I?

Despite my massive collection of participant ribbons from my failed attempt to become the youngest star athlete in the world without ever practicing, I am not a very good participant. Clubs, teams, groups, box socials, and all manner of gathering make me shudder. Having been obsessed with cool as a teenager, I was petrified of doing the wrong thing, the gauche thing, the foolish thing. As a result I missed out on a lot of terrific stuff, including, but not limited to, Kelly Clarkson, learning to drive, and doing as well as I could have done in high school.

There are many ways in which I have matured since then. I buy groceries now. I have five functional keys on my key ring. I even have enough pairs of socks to make it from one laundry day to the next. Cringing at the thought of a team, however, has held firm in my adult brain, and although I am a rational person and I know that humanity depends on co-operation, clubs give me the heebie-jeebies.

An unexpected by-product of getting pregnant and having a baby is you receive an onslaught of invitations to join various groups. Everything from breastfeeding to yoga to the very vague activity of mom-hood has some form of club dedicated to it. I’ve proudly resisted every newsletter, flier, and e-vite sent my way, putting on my best and most practiced scoff; rolling my eyes like a professional adolescent.

Swimming lessons. It was swimming lessons that chipped a small nick out of my stubborn aversion to participation. Avoiding drowning is the obvious reason to enroll Joanie in weekly lessons, but the broader reason is that I want to nip that fear of clubs in the bud before I pass it down to my impressionable, sweet, unsuspecting daughter. What kind of ding-bat mum would I be if I didn’t take my kid to swimming lessons because I don’t like groups?

The result: last Saturday I put on my big girl bathing suit, wiggled Joanie’s squirmy little body into a water proof diaper, and entered the pool to bob in a circle, mumbling along with the lyrics to some French song about how fun water is. At first she clung to me, leaving little crescent nail marks on my arms, but it wasn’t long before my daughter, far more daring than I, started twisting around in an effort to release herself from my arms, instinctively kicking, albeit with no coordination, determined to swim. She spun her head around to look at all the other babies, splashing with joy at the sight of their fun. Joanie, all of ten months old, doesn’t give a hoot about looking silly and not knowing what to do. She’s not afraid of doing exactly what the others are doing, but she’s willing to learn from them. She’s bold, and curious, and fascinated, and eager, and much much better at participating than her mother.

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Get Your Damn Kids Vaccinated… Please

Liberalism is one of those concepts that every first year university student studied. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I’m sure you have some understanding of the term. Simply put: Do whatever you want; just don’t muck about with others.

I bring this up in light of this whole measles mess, which I wasn’t going to comment on because I didn’t think it was a big deal in Canada, and I figured it was just common sense. However a recent outbreak in Lanaudiere, Quebec, right outside of my hometown of Montreal has me concerned.

To dignify the argument that measles causes autism with any kind of response is pointless, because anyone who needs to hear that response isn’t listening, so let’s move on, and I’ll keep this brief because I don’t usually post mid week.

Yes, parents have the right to forgo vaccination, but they do not have the right to bring their kids to daycare, especially one with a nursery. Babies under one, like my daughter, are not old enough to receive the vaccine, but they are still susceptible to the deadly disease. Bottom line: those parents have the choice to leave their kids unprotected. I don’t.

For more information about the outbreak in Quebec 

What if I can’t raise a reader?

My mum reads every night before bed. Without fail, even after the longest day, even if it’s only a paragraph, she gets cozy under the covers with a book perched on her ribs. Lately, she reads from a Kindle, which she’s insistent I buy, but my materialist side is intent on pages, spines, and margin notes. I’m getting off track. The point is that my mum reads a lot. And, growing up, she read to me every night, took me to the library, and enrolled me in young writer’s camp.

Like my mum, I really want my daughter to be a reader. I’m from a family of readers. Books are the topic at every family dinner, though it mostly consists of us screaming titles across the table. “MIDDLESEX,” an aunt will yell, while everyone else audibly sighs in agreement. I want Joanie to be part of that tradition. I want her to raise her bottle in the air with confidence and say, “but have you guys read The Gruffalo?”

Of course there are a million reasons why reading is good for you, and I won’t bore you with a review. I will however explain the two additional reasons why having a bookworm of a daughter is important to me.

The first being that I like that loud camaraderie my family has achieved over books. Yes it’s abrasive, and no, it doesn’t lend itself to criticism, but by knowing what my family is reading, I can keep tabs on what’s going on in their minds. For instance, I know that if someone’s reading Knausgaard’s My Struggle, that person is feeling heady and perhaps over-analytical. To have an idea of the lens through which a family member is currently seeing the world, and to be able share that lens is a priceless bonding tool. Who doesn’t want that advantage with their kids?

The second reason is that I don’t know how to relate to people who don’t read. Maybe I’m a bit of a snob, (If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’m a huge snob.) but for me, reading is like eating and sleeping and drinking and babbling with Joanie. It’s just something I do without thinking. I believe that if you’re not a reader, you’re missing out on a tradition that’s much older than you are, than Twitter and television are, than silly swiping games are. Reading has been around before screens and it’ll be there after. (I hope. I think.)

I say these things, but of course I’m realistic. I can read out loud and point out all the dogs on all the pages all I want, but Joanie will still be a person complete with her very own agency. She may hate reading. She might be bored by it, or she might find some other way of devouring information, or she may have troubles with the technicalities of words on a page. Sure, there’s something to be said for nurture, but who knows if I’m doing the right thing, or if Joanie even cares. I’m not going to stop trying simply because no one knows what will happen, but I need to be prepared. She’s my daughter, and I’ll figure out a way to communicate with her, if not through books. That being said, I must admit, I’m terrified by the prospect. What if I can’t raise a reader?

To end on a positive note, because I’m hopeful Joanie will end up having some kind of relationship with the written word, given the way she likes to put the pages in her mouth, I have included a list of books that I love reading with my daughter.

  • The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Lousie Loves Art by Kelly Light
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  • Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

I’m always looking for new books or to be reminded of old ones, specifically ones with strong female characters. Please please please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Also please note that I am rethinking my love of Shell Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.