Slowly, and then all at once. The Tweens.

by Alicia on June 30, 2015

It’s kind of how John Green describes falling in love in The Fault In Our Stars: “slowly, and then all at once.” That’s how Isabella became a tween.

I hate that term- tween. It’s so precious. So juvenile, and yet it sounds so sassy. Almost like it’s expected that there will be drama, which I guess is not that far off from reality. Bella has never been subtle at any point in her life, and the ascent (descent?) into the hormonal teen years has certainly brought the drama, quite a bit more quickly than I anticipated. I’m starting to think that’s the undercurrent of my parenthood: it all happens before I’m ready. I thought a lot about the tormented teen years, I prepared for it, I planned how I would rise above my own human nature and usher her through the tough emotions I can actually still remember feeling myself. But then one day I sat back and realized Bella and I were are battling more than talking, and that hit me pretty hard. I worry. I am worried. Bella is one of the most genuinely empathetic and caring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I forget about those parts when she talks back and stomps off and gives me attitude far beyond her years. I’m worried she’ll think I forgot them altogether by the time these hormones settle down and we get back to the same page. I’m worried I will forget all the great things about her, and instead we’ll spend the next decade wrapped in a tormented battle of wills.

I want her to be a good person, I want her to be polite and accommodating and gracious. I want her to be assertive and confident and accepting. I do realize she needs to learn those things before she can be them. I also begrudgingly realize she can take or leave any of those things as she sees fit, I don’t get to design her. But isn’t that one thing we do as parents? Mold our children into good people? I’m actually wondering this…is that something we are supposed to be doing? Or do we just guide them and then eventually, much sooner than we’re ready, just let them…be who they’re going to be? Even (and especially) if we don’t always like it.

Mom & Bella, Walkerville Nigh Market, June 2015If I could name one thing I want my motherhood to accomplish it’s that my daughters just keep talking to me, keep being open to me, that I can accept them for who they are. Not who they are because of what I’ve done for them. Not who they might be one day “when they get beyond this stage”. Not who they are on their best day, or how I picture them in their perfection. I want to not judge them based on how I saw their life turning out, I don’t want to compare my pinnacle to theirs. I think sometimes we see our children too rigidly as reflections of ourselves. Yes, I can see myself in Bella sometimes, I hear words I’ve said slide out of her mouth, she has mannerisms like mine, and a creative streak that right now looks like chaos but I recognize as exploration. She’s mimicking me because I’m right here, but she’s not a smaller representation of my actual 32 years of personhood, my goodness that’s so much pressure for someone just trying to be someone. It’s hard for them to decide for themselves who they want to be, what that person looks like, the struggle between fitting in and standing out, where the balance of their life can sit and be stable, where they can be independent but still connected. So the struggle for me as a mother is that I have expectations, and I want her to know them because I think they’re good and worthy expectations…but I don’t want either of us to feel bound by them. I don’t want expectations to run the undercurrent of our relationship. And just because she’s from me, doesn’t mean she’s like me.

I think what I have to do is just be honest with her: “This is tough for me, kiddo. I’m trying my best but sometimes I push my own thoughts onto what you say and I stop listening to your words. Even though I’m a Mom, my feelings can get hurt just like yours.” And follow it up with, “You can always tell me, you know, when you don’t agree with me. You can tell me if what I said to you made you wish you hadn’t told me at all.” (thanks, therapy!) Cause how powerful is that? For your kid and for yourself. Like, don’t scream it at me as you’re stomping up the stairs, maybe, but if you can just sit across from me and say “I didn’t really get much out of that, Mom” then I can sit in the sting of that for a minute and then try something different, perhaps better.

Perhaps better. I’m trying to do better. By seeing myself for what I really am right now which is frustrated and confused and kinda mopey and a little bit scared to be honest. And I think the girls can still see me as strong enough to support them even after I let them see some of the ways I’m flawed and weak. If it teaches them anything, maybe it will teach them to see themselves and trust that the process of failure will occur over and over their whole lives. It will teach them to honestly sit with the thoughts in their head, and try to make sense of what should stay and what can go. Bella is starting the long uphill climb of becoming a grown up, and it’s all so huge right now that it’s frustrating because she can’t see the point. Like, she just wants to be older already. Remember that feeling? And here I am trying to will her to slow the hell down and enjoy this part. We’re on two paths, maybe parallel and hopefully closer together than further apart, but we’re both simultaneously racing to catch up and slowing down to stay in view of each other. I don’t have a Right Answer, here. I wish I did. I don’t want to find it too late, but I sense there isn’t a Right Answer anyway.

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Being assertive, and being wrong.

by Alicia on May 11, 2015

Tattoo on woman's lower inner arm, text says itsevarma in script

The translation from Finnish is: ‘assertive’.

I’ve finally been asked a few times about my tattoo in public, from strangers, and I still brace myself for their reaction. Even though the very reason for its permanent placement on my body is both an affirmation and a reminder. One day my daughters may mother. If I could choose the one thing that resonates through the generations to follow me, it would be this: itsevarma. Assertive.

Speak. With respect, with humility, with confidence. Know that what you think is only what you think, seek to understand. Not to be proven wrong, but to add more layers to your position. Know what you know before you say it out loud. Be powerful, be confident, speak up. If you’re in a meeting or in a conversation thinking, “…but wait…” in the back corner? Wait for a respectful moment to put up your hand and point out the piece that you see a conflict with, and an option to avoid said conflict. If you feel belittled or insulted, choose to disengage completely or speak up respectfully. Know that there is always more going on than you know about. Be prepared to be proven wrong….and still feel like you were right. Be prepared to keep your mouth shut about that. Say no. Recognize that disappointing someone and being a disappointment are two different things. Make the choice to follow either the path of ease or resistance. Change your mind. Check in with yourself first before you check in with anyone else.

I’m a mother, but I’m not only a mother. I have built more confidence in my particular brand of motherhood with the more confidence I have gained in myself as a person. I have to completely separate myself from my children sometimes to gain the perspective that I need to know what I want to do. I started off being so angry that I had “wasted” years of my life trying on the hats of others, only to now recognize that the pain and discomfort I felt is actually growth. It’s where I learned what I’m like. It’s in the collection of all those moments of fear, anger, depression, confusion, shame, and doubt that I rounded out the edges of myself enough to know what to be assertive about. And to be unapologetic for the parts I just don’t care that much about.

Mothers’ Day feels like I’m borrowing it a little. From my own mom, and the lovely ladies that call me mom. It felt like I had instant confidence in my motherhood at the exact moment I gave myself permission to not worry about it so much. You could say that parenting is the most important job in the world…and I respectfully slightly disagree. I can’t parent what I don’t live. Instead, I think that mentoring is the most important job in the world. They’ll model what I do, more than what I say. They’ll see how I feel before they believe what I tell them. They’ll watch more than they’ll hear.

The word assertive is kind of like the word feminist. No one knows if you’re about to attack them after it’s said. For myself, it’s a declaration, not a battle cry. And I guess that’s how I mother too- in a series of attempts, rather than a victory.

Maë, Bella, Alicia and Annika, mothers day 2015, funny face picture in Jerry & Jenny's Diner

Like this picture. Let’s just be us, ladies. We’re pretty cool.


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I want my daughters to fail.

by Alicia on April 6, 2015

I want my daughters to fail.

I want my daughters to fail so hard.

While you talk of not burning bridges, I whisper to my daughters “maybe just take the river route”. Bravery starts at the breath right before the moment where fear renders you immobile.

Alicia, Annika, Maëlle, IsabellaI mother from a place of comfort with failure. I like the answer “I don’t know.” There’s so much beauty in admitting we don’t know. It gives us both permission to be imperfect, and the opportunity to learn something new. And it offers a gift with purchase to your neighbour who then holds it like a free pass to admit that maybe they don’t know either. And on and on that goes, better than any pay it forward coffee line you’ve ever been in.

It’s scary to be wrong. It’s scary to fail. There’s a fear in letting my daughters see that I have cracks and flaws and I’m just making shit up as I go. Growing up I always just wanted to be a grown up, someone who knew everything and how to succeed at every small and large task. I remember sitting in the picture window of my old house, staring at a young woman walking her dog on a leash down my street. I thought to myself, “I wonder in which grade they teach you how to walk a dog.” I thought adults would teach me the right way to do anything. Then I became an adult. Who owns a dog. And no one ever taught me how to walk the damn thing.

Some of us fall into a trap as mothers. That trap looks like perfection. It looks like every Homes & Garden landscaped yard, surrounded by a picket fence painted the perfect shade of seashell white. Inside our motherhood trap there are always peonies in vases, Pinterested Whole30 compliant recipes on the perfectly clean stove, and an adorable kitten perched whimsically on an afghan you crocheted last week sometime between volunteering at the soup kitchen and chairing the PTA meeting. Look a little closer at that woman in that trap. SHE IS ON FIRE. Her eyes are dead because her insides are a mass of flames from the trying so damn hard to make it look like she doesn’t even have to try to be perfect, she just is… That woman is a mother who is terrified someone will point out her flaws. She’s certain her own mother was always smarter than this.

I intimately know this woman’s inner monologue, because I was her.


I am mothering potential mothers. Whoa. I want them to know that the bar of motherhood isn’t that high…in fact, it doesn’t even exist. We just fabricate it, and then end up resenting what we’ve made. We’re trying to mimic the perfect, putting on the face that we’ve got this whole thing under control and there’s no need to challenge. (Oh sweet hell please never actually challenge it, I’m weak and vulnerable and terrified and wrong, so very wrong all the time…ignore me, envy me, exalt me, just please never ask me.)

So I’ve decided I’m burning more than bridges. I’m gonna burn that trap down too. I’m standing up and saying I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING HERE…so let’s just figure it out together. I’m teaching my daughters that they can tell their daughters the truth: that moms don’t really know everything and that’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. That moms can learn from their kids in real time. I’m telling them that vulnerability will make them more friends than faking it ever will. That bravery is built on weakness, and growth is a product of bravery, and knowledge is the seeds of growth that you dropped when you failed. So, to fail is to be brave. And what’s more brave than stripping off the armour of perfection and standing there asking for help?

I want my daughters to fail so hard. Because I hope they teach their daughters, and their mother, that it’s brave to fail.



Speaking of failure…I auditioned for Detroit’s 2015 Listen To Your Mother show with this piece & didn’t get in. I still love the piece so much, and still think Listen To Your Mother was one of the most moving shows I’ve ever watched live. Absolutely worth going if there’s one in your area. 


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Cover Your Bits- why my children dress terribly & why I like it

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“Oh. Maëlle has taken on her sister’s sense of style, I see…” was the genuinely good-natured comment offered by Annika’s teacher on a pick up one evening with two other Ladies in tow. My daughters’ choices of attire are sometimes usually always just left of traditional and would really never be found in a magazine […]

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