I tend to be a bit of a self-cleaning oven. I am not very good at asking for help to scrub the burners free of life’s, obligations, stressors and miseries. I actually feel much better helping others find their way navigating the complex waters of this thing called life, than focusing on myself.

When I first started flying, the stewardess, which you may recall is what flight attendants used to be called, would be demonstrating the safety protocols and would say something like “In the unlikely event of a cabin pressure emergency, an oxygen mask will fall out of the ceiling.

If you are traveling with young children, make sure you put the mask on yourself first’. I rarely listen to instructions or read full paragraphs for that matter, my brain being too busy doing many other more interesting things, but that day I actually paid attention to what she was saying, and decided she must have flunked the training progra, and like me probably hadn’t paid much attention in school.

How dare we look after ourselves first, before a defenseless child?

The word selfish gets bad press. If you think of the word selfish, you tend to think of some self-absorbed individuals who don’t give a damn about anyone other than themselves. Well, with the wisdom of age, and I have a lot of years under my belt earning every one of my now exposed white eyebrow hairs, I have figured it out. Tell me, what good are we if we are unconscious, literally or metaphorically, to those around us? With the oxygen mask of life securely in place, we are far better equipped to help others, because we have taken care of ourselves first.

Being a mother is a daunting and humbling experience.  For most of my many years parenting my own biological kids, as well as having many other young people in my life and care I have felt I am in a never-ending episode of the I Love Lucy show. I loved that wacky woman and I could relate to her and her crazy antics of trying to get her needs met in life, all the while screwing up and then recovering from the mishaps. Methinks a metaphor for parenting!

One of the many silver linings of Covid 19 captivity has been the opportunity to spend time with my adult kids, hunkered down in a part of the world they grew up in and loved their entire lives. My family had an island cottage that my parents had the foresight to buy in 1972. My siblings and I were given the opportunity to spend time in nature and by water, two incredibly important features for my mental and physical health today.

My parents saw the purchase as an opportunity to build family ties for their five children, and the 12 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren that were to come. For my mom, the cottage was her salvation. She struggled with depression most of her life, but there she came into her own and found a contentment and peace that was not usually present in other locations. Sadly, it was sold a few years ago.

Some years before the sale and before my father’s death and my mother’s dementia worsened,  my husband and I bought a 100 year old farmhouse/cottage on the mainland, not far as the crow flies from the family cottage. We saw it as our retirement home, not of course knowing back then that we would be hunkered down in it before actually collecting our old age security cheques.

Unfortunately dad died before he could spend too much time on our main land property, which would have allowed him more ease and less anxiety about the boat trip to the island. Mom has spent many happy times with us here, although her declining physical health may preclude her coming back to Muskoka this year. She has dementia although she remembers all of her kids and grandkids, but what she remembers most is her cottage. Her face lights up when you say “Mom the ice is out, and it’s time for you to go back up north.”

 She said to me long ago that she felt like a “good” mother at the cottage. I am not sure what that really meant, because she never explained, but I believe it was because she would stop running around like a chicken with her head cut off, a human doing vs a human being, and would sit and play endless games of Scrabble, swim with the grand kids, hike and walk and was known to go tubing with her great grandkids at age 89. She came alive in nature and surrounded by her family. Her family is everything to her. Although she struggled with being happy, and content with the choices she made in her life, there was no doubt how much she loved her family. She taught me that the best ‘presents’ we can ever give to our children is our ‘presence’.

With Covid 19 cavity and the great pause that is a hallmark feature of the pandemic, I feel I get to do a bit of a parenting ‘re-do.’ Like my mother I do too much and have a hard time just being, although starting to meditate years ago improved this considerably.

Having this time with my kids has been precious for me. Without this pause together we would not have been playing board games, planning and preparing fun and nutritious meals, sitting long after stuffing ourselves is over and just talking, without having to separate and race into our respective, frenetic lives. We would not be walking down the country highway, picking up garbage and beer cans splendidly attired in rubber boots and yellow dishwashing gloves.

Graham and Devon have learned how to make bread, and, oh my God, cinnamon-sugar donuts. I see them as medicinal comfort food to help get me through…. They have also been raking and bagging a 100 years of forest debris, and are the best dump runners in the family.

Greg, being the most talented and creative of our bunch, has been coming up with new creations and always has great ideas on how to make a buck, a natural born entrepreneur. He is our property manager keeping the lawn and gardens looking their very best and providing Covid Captivity Comedic Relief. He has a wicked sense of humour, which we have all appreciated during these unprecedented times.

When we aren’t busy stuffing ourselves and putting on the Covid 19 (pounds!) we have been planning and mapping out a large vegetable garden in our field. Gregory has been complaining that he has been served a “medley of mediocrity”, referring to the nightly placement of carrots and parsnips, on our dinner table. At the beginning of the pandemic large quantities of vegetables were purchased as if we were Columbus in 1492, crossing the Atlantic blue on a ship and needing to stockpile, so we wouldn’t get scurvy. The message of my Depression era parents rings in my ears saying “waste not, want not”, guiding my decision to get to the end of the large sack. This garden will not have carrots or parsnips, if Greg has his say.

I believe living in a family is a lot like tending to a garden. We have to plant the seeds of self- worth and self-esteem and nurture them gently, until kids can do it themselves. We have to carefully foster growth, but not trample them with our own worries and needs for excellence. We need to water and fertilize each family member’s soul, and when the weeds come, as they inevitably will, we have to pick them out and learn from them and at times their painful and life choking messages.

In 1953, Dr. Donald Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst coined the term “The good enough mother.” He believed that mothers needed to be very attentive to their children and meet their needs well, but Donald, thank God, figured out that mothers need to fail the little darlings in manageable ways. He wasn’t talking about major failures like abuse and neglect, but in tolerable ways on a fairly regular basis, so they can learn to live in an imperfect world. I read his book cover to cover, which if you know me my ADD precludes that level of attentiveness, unless there is something gripping in it for me. My kids would probably say I took to heart too seriously the prescribed need to fail them, but what the hell, I did the best I could.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Namaste

Categories: Expert advice

36 Comments

Carolyn Rideout · 9 May 2020 at 14 h 46 min

Congrats! Lovely Gaye.

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 15 h 24 min

    Thanks CR! I look forward to our reunification when the world settles down and I can get into a sardine can again, masked and gowned, with my rubber gloves firmly in place and come for a visit.

Rose · 9 May 2020 at 14 h 55 min

So well done!! Happy Mother’s Day to you!! Looking forward to your next post!

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 15 h 22 min

    Thank you very much Rose! Happy Mother’s Day to you. I will get another post out by the end of the week, on resilience I think!

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 18 h 19 min

    Thank you very much Rose! Happy Mother’s Day to you. I will get another post out by the end of the week, on resilience I think.

Linda Henshaw · 9 May 2020 at 15 h 09 min

I think when our own families don’t exist anymore, or when they never have, we do the same sorts of things with people we choose to be our family, and with whom we are hunkering down now. We might not be perfect friends/lovers/partners/surrogate parents or grandparents but we do our best, given whatever we have (or have learned). We don’t need a bond of blood to do this although some may disagree.

I totally agree with your son – no garden should ever have parsnips, and most should not have carrots. Along with turnips, they are highly over-rated. Not only are your channeling your inner gardener but you are also calling up a bit of Piaf – impressive.

Happy Mother’s Day to you, Gaye, and thanks for all you do to nurture and tend to others, something that is especially important as we each serve our Covid sentences in whatever cell we might be in!

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 15 h 21 min

    Thank you so much for your always lovely, profound and fun comments. I so appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and sharing your thoughts.
    We can choose our friends, but not our family, so it is really great if who we are hunkered down in the ‘cell’ with are people we actually want to spend time with, and show our vulnerability to, during these crazy and long…… unprecedented times.

Leslie · 9 May 2020 at 17 h 11 min

Thank you Gaye for your self deprecating humour and honesty. I think your ability to be a real person lets your grown up guys be so natural and real. Your writing always touches my heart and my funny bone. I don’t really know where my funny bone is but I know I have one when I read your blog. Wishing you and all Moms a very Happy Mother’s Day

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 18 h 25 min

    Hello Leslie!

    I will never forget how you came over to my house when Gregory was born and I was an absolute wreck with no sleep, looking like a hag, and desperate to be back in our office where I had felt some modicum of control over my life! In you walked, with the most gorgeous stuffed tiger and the biggest smile and hug in the world, and my world felt somewhat right again. He was born pretty much on Mother’s Day that year. I checked with the anatomy expert in the house and he says “Tell Leslie that a funny bone is actually not a bone, but a nerve, called the Ulna (nerve). Who knew? someone way back when didn’t pay as much attention in med school, and mixed up a bone with a nerve!! 🙂

      Leslie · 9 May 2020 at 19 h 16 min

      Oh Gaye I remember that day so well. Isn’t it funny how certain moments imprint in our memories and hearts ? The flip side from my perspective is that I am not a mom and you seemed so natural at it. I was gobsmacked at the gentleness that flowed between you two as he lay upon your chest. In my mind I hoped a tiger was an ok gift! He was cute and sunshiny but oh my goodness he was a tiger!!!How we judge ourselves! In your writings , book or blog, you remind us all to let go of judging ourselves. Your voice is so welcome in this crazy world. I feel cherished when I read your words. From my ulna to yours. Xo

Sandra Dagelman · 9 May 2020 at 17 h 26 min

As always, loved your words of wisdom. Happy Mother’s Day to a smokin’ hot “bikini clad” mama. 💕🌸

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 18 h 18 min

    Ahhhhh, you are far too kind!!!! 🙂 🙂
    So looking forward to having you in the ‘hood, Sandra! We can wear our “tri-kini’s” together. For those of you who don’t now what that is, it is a bikini bottom, top, and a matching mask!!!

Ann · 9 May 2020 at 19 h 01 min

Happy Mother’s Day Gaye! Your blog brought back so many happy memories of our years on Wilson Island that you so generously shared we me and my family and where your “third, and now American son” as you like to call him grew up. Having caesars and laughs on the dock with your mom and Bumpy enjoying their funny stories, nothing better.
As you know Mother’s Day is tough for me as I so greatly miss my mom but having your incredible support and love has made it much easier and I appreciate it so much.
Of course as your blogs always do I got a good chuckle imagining Graham planning a veggie garden when growing up he wouldn’t go near a vegetable if his life depended on it. Lucy You Got some Splainin To Do!! 🤗💚🌻💐

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 19 h 10 min

    Oh Ann, I miss you so much!!!! I still cant believe you abandoned us and moved to the U.S. of A!!! 🙂 As I age, there is nothing better than those incredible shared memories that we have of those that have gone ahead of us. I miss Bumpy more than ever, which is surprising for me. I thought it was supposed to get better and ease your heart with time. Not true. And, mom, I lose her slowly as her mind retreats more and she is a shell of whom she used to be. Not fair. Alzheimers is such an awful thing!! Give that gorgeous son of ours the biggest Covid distancing protocol hug that California allows. Thinking of you dear friend and know that tomorrow is the hardest day of the year for you. Love you, Annie. Xo

Ann · 9 May 2020 at 19 h 39 min

Miss you too! I will pass your biggest hug to your defector son and hope to see you soon when we can safely travel.
Enjoy getting spoiled tomorrow but your boys, you deserve it!!

Cliff Whitfield · 9 May 2020 at 20 h 10 min

It’s truly amazing, Gaye, how you subtly move from your describing your own daily challenges and how you manage them, to sound advice to others struggling with similar challenges. Kudos!

Cliff

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 22 h 34 min

    Thanks Cliff! Great to hear from you. Hope all is well in your world in these bizarre times of Covid. Looking forward to your trip up to the Lakehouse to see the changes that I hope you will approve of!

Carol · 9 May 2020 at 20 h 16 min

Happy Mother’s Day Gaye! Thanks for yet another entertaining blog.
And FYI, Wilson Island is not the same without you! 😢

    Gaye Gould · 9 May 2020 at 22 h 33 min

    Ahhh, you are so sweet Carol. Our families sure had some amazing times there, growing up and coming of age on Wilson Island. So wonderful.

kevin Brady · 10 May 2020 at 9 h 03 min

HI Gaye. This was amazing. It is so apparent that you are a very grateful loving person and your family is so lucky to have you. Happy Mothers Day,

Kev

Kev

    Gaye Gould · 10 May 2020 at 11 h 47 min

    Hello Kev,
    Thank you for your lovely words. I feel so much gratitude to have a family to be hunkered down with in Covid Captivity, in a place I love.

Chris Lefaivre · 10 May 2020 at 13 h 19 min

lovely post I hope you have a wonderful mothers day hugs Chris

    Gaye Gould · 11 May 2020 at 9 h 15 min

    Thanks Chris!
    Mother’s Day was certainly different. I would never have dreamed that I would have a celebration of any nature in a pandemic. The world has certainly changed.

Owen · 10 May 2020 at 19 h 55 min

{mother}: verb
“a woman in relation to her child or children.”
You have the gift to connect with your children and others – that simply is the best. I hope you got spoiled this Mother’s Day!

    Gaye Gould · 11 May 2020 at 9 h 13 min

    Dear Owen,

    Thank you very much for your beautiful message. I am so glad that you are in my world and that our connection is so strong and enduring.

Sonia · 10 May 2020 at 20 h 08 min

Gaye, it is always nice to read you. I like the name you found for confinement bingeing: putting on the COVID-19 pounds. It’s great to know we’re not the only ones gaining weight. If we’re all heavier, doesn’t it make us all the same, i.e. normal? Happy Mother’s Day to you and your family!

    Gaye Gould · 11 May 2020 at 9 h 20 min

    Hi Sonia,
    You better believe we are all the same!!! I think Covid 19 is the great equalizer. It knows no boundaries of race, religion, economic status, gender, age etc.
    Think of how much fun it is going to be to go the gym again, after this is over. I will never complain again about going out in the morning to work out. I have been doing the odd plank and going for walks, but not the same! Plump is the new normal!! 🙂

Gayle G · 11 May 2020 at 3 h 18 min

Standing ovation!

Heather · 15 May 2020 at 11 h 17 min

Gaye, thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling. I am loving spending time with the adult kids during the pandemic, it feels like cottage time!

Best of luck with your garden.

    Gaye Gould · 18 May 2020 at 17 h 46 min

    Hi Heather,
    Thank you so much for your comments. It does feel like cottage time and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I am so looking forward to beginning the tradition of planting on the May 24th weekend, which is when my grandfather always said you had to wait for to plant. I come from a long line farmers. However, it has been so cold up here with lots of frost, snow etc I think we will wait another week.

Darlene Josephson · 16 May 2020 at 15 h 50 min

Hello Gaye:

I am truly enjoying following your blog. You are so nurturing and see life through your own and fresh eyes. Always refreshing to read your words. Thank you Gaye.

    Gaye Gould · 18 May 2020 at 17 h 46 min

    So nice to hear from you Darlene! Thank you very much for your comments.

Melody · 2 June 2020 at 9 h 42 min

Just what I needed to read❣️ Love this Gaye❣️ Look forward to reading more …. absolutely brilliant and definitely relatable ♥️

    Gaye Gould · 2 June 2020 at 10 h 58 min

    Thank you so much for your comment, Mel! Welcome to the blog. I hope you get as much pleasure out of reading the postings as I get connecting with you and others this way. I hope to post a new one in the next couple of days.

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