nodding & smiling

ceci n'est pas un bébé lala

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Feeling Safe at University

Sexism and Rape Culture at Dal?

Sexism and Rape Culture at Dal?

When I sent my daughter across the country to attend university at Dalhousie, I did so confident about the school and faculty I was entrusting her to. My biggest fear was about the male student population, and the mob mentality at this age. I’d read horrifying headlines of college parties involving rape and young women and didn’t want my girl to experience any of it. Having done my research, I was confident that the school’s culture and values reflected my own (to a certain extent), and that the president Richard Florizone encouraged a culture of hard work, responsibility, accountability and fun.

I was as shocked and disappointed as anyone when I first learned of the Dalhousie School of Dentistry scandal, and along with the rest of the country, eagerly awaited the school’s response. Would these so-called “gentlemen” be suspended pending investigation and resolution? Would the school do the right thing and expel them? And most-importantly to me, did I send my daughter to a school that values women’s rights to feel safe at school? Is she safe at school?

Time will tell.


Visiting Her Town – Part 1

My favourite things

My favourite things

A few weeks back, Alex texted to invite me to visit her during Dal’s November long weekend. She would have two days off school, and would be playing two ringette games. Right away, I found awesome deals on both room and flight, and replied, “Absolutely, I’d love to!” that same night.

Because Alex’s burgeoning independence has manifested in her staking her ground when I attempt to swoop in and solve, plan, or take things over, I was cautious to not try to schedule my time in “her” new town. Making this easy was the fact that I’d be arriving on my birthday – she would plan the weekend.

When I arrived, Alex presented me with a birthday gift (Mason jar filled with my favourite things in it). Then she took me to her favourite restaurant, and pulled out her debit card and treated.

The next day, I got to watch the Dalhousie Tigers play two ringette games and Alex, her friend Megan, Megan’s mom and I took a late-night walking trip around the waterfront area, finishing the night with 1am pizza and drinks. Loving this trip!


(Empty) Nesting – Part 2

What? She needs things for her room!

What? She needs things for her room!

If you recall my first nesting post and the amount of stuff I bought to quell my growing anxiety about my daughter leaving, this post will not come as a shock to you.

Since I dropped her off, I’ve thought of many things she needs. Lightbulbs, a boot tray, a door stop, handsoap, baskets for her kitchen supplies, etc. etc. etc. You name it, I’ve thought of it.


Tonight my daughter texted me…

DD: “Hahaha so embarrassing!”

Me: “What is?”

DD: “Getting packages”

Me: “Huh?”

DD: “Haha I just picked up two packages, and the guy at the front desk was like, ‘Oh you’re Alex! I’ve always wanted to meet you. You get so many things.”

Me: “OMG. So sorry. Just tell him your mom has trouble coping with you gone and this is how she deals!”

DD: “I did, and he said, ‘Well your mom must miss you a lot. You’re the talk of the front desk!’ LOL”

Yeah so that’s how my week is going.


How’s yours?

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Leaving Tweens Home Alone

The Glamourous Life. Kate's mischievous beginnings

The Glamourous Life. Kate’s mischievous beginnings

My younger daughter Katherine is 10 years old. For some kids, that’s old enough to stay home alone. For Katherine, I wasn’t quite sure.

She is after all the same child who convinced a fellow-preschooler to lay down on the couch frame while she put the couch cushion over his face AND SAT ON IT. Who decorated her walls with greasy hand-cream. She’s also the same child who, as a toddler, filled every floor register with clothes, toys, money. The same child who made fist-sized paper mache spitballs and tossed them up onto the bathroom ceiling to harden. Who wrote on every surface of my house. Who stuck gum to the wall. I can go on, and on…

Wanting to allow her some independence as she enters her tween years, when she was 9 years old I sent Katherine on a full-day course put on by The Babysitter’s Course that taught “home alone and first aid” fundamentals. What to do if you’re home alone and get hungry, hurt, if the phone rings, if there’s a knock at the door, etc. After the day-long course, Katherine had earned her certificate.

I began to ask her hypothetical “what-if” questions, to ensure she had understood the risks and knew what to do. I began to let her cook simple things on her own… fried eggs, soup.  I began letting her walk to school, the park, her friend’s house by herself.

I was still nervous, but I knew that with the increase in responsibilities and the faith I was showing in her, Katherine was going to develop self-confidence, which is so important as she heads into the teen years. So I took the leap and let her stay home alone – started out small, just when I would go get the mail or head out to pick her sister up from the arena, and then increased to full shopping trips or lunches out.

The house did not burn down and my child did well. Helicopter Mom did a happy dance!

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A snippet of her day.

One of the many things that makes my independent girl so special: she appreciates that her mom is not so independent, so takes time to send me snippets of her day, which I need right now, because she’s three provinces away and I miss her. She’s mature enough to recognize my needs and subtly satisfy them without pomp and circumstance.

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The stairs I won't soon forget

The stairs I won’t soon forget

Drop-off was from 9:30 to noon on the morning of August 31st for first-year students. It was great to be greeted by teams of 2nd-year kids, costumed and cheering and offering help with our gear. After a few hours of unpacking and getting partially-settled, Alex came to me and said, “Okay mom, students have to be at quad for an important meeting at 11:30, so you should go now.” I said, “Okay but Auntie Arlene has my purse and went to get a sandwich. Can I wait until she’s back?” to which Alex replied, “No. I don’t want to be that kid whose mom stayed all day.”

So I said, “Alright, I’ll go wander around outside, I suppose this is goodbye.” to which Alex gave me her cheek and skipped off, saying “See you at Thanksgiving!”

Stunned, I made my way downstairs and stumbled into the sunlight, happy kids and nervous parents still all milling about. I sat down on a set of stone steps framed with a wrought-iron railing and a sign that read ‘FOUNDED IN 1818’ and wept.

15 minutes later, I got a text:

Alex: “Where are you?”

Me: “Outside sitting on some steps.”

Alex: “I wanted to come say goodbye again.”

Me: “Okay come outside.”

Alex came out and said that she didn’t feel good about our other goodbye. I suppose she didn’t want the memory of it to remain awkward. She gave me a big hug that I didn’t want to let go of, but that made everything better (it really did).

Then she skipped off again, off to her new life.



Moving Out

It fits. She's happy. I'm....?

It fits. She’s happy. I’m….?

Not gonna lie – it’s hard.

This… all of it…

I know she’s going to enjoy university, I know it’s time, I know she’s totally ready and excited and looking forward to all that moving to Nova Scotia and attending Dalhousie will bring, but…

It’s hard.

My friend Joanne is also going through the same thing, she was excited, she said, until she was at the supermarket, loading her basket with her daughter’s faves, and then realized she would not be there to enjoy them (Joanne’s daughter is going to King’s also in Halifax).

My other friends, Kim and Jane, have lived through this with their sons leaving for university last year (Bishops and McMaster), and their daughters following this year (Guelph and Waterloo) and have helped prepare me for the feelings I’d have. They told me that it wasn’t the end, it wasn’t “my kid moving out” but rather, “my kid living elsewhere for a time”. That made it an eventuality easier to accept. Knowing that Alex would come back.

Although we’re only leaving on Thursday, we packed the car today, to ensure we had enough room in my SUV and wouldn’t need to rent something.

It all fit.


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As You Go To University…

Now university-bound, my then 6-year-old athlete

Now university-bound, my then 6-year-old athlete

Dear Alex,

I won’t begin this letter with “I’m going to miss you”. You know that already.

I also won’t regale you with stories of my youth and my lessons learned – you’ve heard them all before and make much better choices than I ever did. TBH, sometimes I just tell you them to see your face pale. Ha!

I know you appreciate the quality education you’re about to receive, and the gift of living in residence (because not all kids are as fortunate). You’re thankful for all the hard work that has gotten you here (your own included). I know you won’t waste it by getting poor grades.

I also won’t use this space to tell you how proud I am of you. Once you decided on a field of study, you worked tirelessly toward your goal. You’re probably rolling your eyes now with an exasperated, “Oh Mom!”

This letter is about the other people. The people you can’t expect to meet, the kind I wouldn’t want to ruin your excitement with by warning you about. They can enter your life in the form of biased teachers, grabby guys, thieving classmates, backstabbing friends, deceitful boyfriends, sneaky strangers. I want you to keep yourself safe from them.

They’re impossible to identify simply by their actions or words, you just have to be aware they could be anywhere. Think back to what I told you when you were learning to drive. Relax, but check your mirrors and blind-spots frequently. Drive defensively and above all, trust your instincts.

I love you,

Mom xo

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My sister and I sometime in the early eighties, and my two girls at the same age

My sister and I sometime in the early eighties, and my two girls at the same age


I am 8 years older than my sister, which is the same age difference as between my two girls.

My family moved to the suburbs of Toronto from the West Island (Montreal) when I was eighteen, and I stayed behind for love, school, work, friends. I didn’t consider that at 10, my sister was entering her formative years, and frankly at the time, I probably wouldn’t have cared.

When I re-joined my family four years later, the kid sister I had left behind was gone, and in her place was an angsty, funny, ironic-T-wearing, Pearl-Jam-singing fourteen-year-old. I enjoyed getting to know her again.

My kids are currently 18 and 10. With my elder daughter is heading off to university in 3 short months, I can’t help but draw the parallel between them, and my sister and I at the same ages. No matter my fears about preserving their bond, I know this is their path, and will try not to interfere.

But… they don’t call me “helicopter mom” for nothing.