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. 


They DO grow up, eh?

by Alicia on March 18, 2015

I mean, that’s why we had kids, right? So we could watch them grow up? Participate actively in their development into functioning adults who hopefully contribute to society as a whole?

So why the long faces when they do something that their entire life has been propelled toward?

When my girls each started walking, I was thrilled for them. Hell, I was thrilled for me! Mobile daughters was a lovely milestone in my life, it brought lots of independence and some amusing moments that only can belong to a newly toddling, somewhat pudgy, babyfaced kid. I didn’t “want to push them down” or “sob at their baby phase going away”. Yes, it’s bittersweet, realizing that I am seeing a lot of these milestones for the last time. I have no more babies, they won’t happen again. But then, Bella only ever took her first steps once too. And Nik only got one first day of school. Maë had one first word, just like every other kid on the planet. So I’m technically an old pro at watching milestones come and go quickly and, by that logic, so is every parent.

May2013-March2015 All three girlsI read this article the other day, the message of which resonated very much with my view on parenting and my own constant growing up. My struggle doesn’t lie in the act of them growing and doing new things, but rather in the guilt that I don’t get attached to those things. I’m usually really excited about them. Signing each of my kids up for Kindergarten was thrilling! I worried a little that they’d have a period of struggle, but I was already prepared to feel secondary victory when they found their way through. I don’t stress about first nights spent away from home (to be fair here, our families have been the recipients of each of our kids’ first sleepovers, so that helps ease my mind), I had the start of the menstrual discussion with Bella in the hallway between my front door and my kitchen without much fanfare, they’ve each had their ears pierced and that didn’t affect me at all other than I thought they looked super cute. But then I look around at  my social network and 3 out of every 4 moms is having an emotional crisis at their kid reaching some milestone in their life like first days of school or bus rides or report cards or whatever. And it affects me, because I feel like maybe I’m broken, or that my kids are missing some important facet of the parent-child relationship and they’ll require therapy for the fact that their mom didn’t seem to give a fuck about their first school concert. (I didn’t, by the way. I laughed through it and didn’t even think to invite a grandparent because it didn’t seem like a big enough deal to travel for. It was cute, but they do cute shit all the time at home and I don’t invite anyone there either.)

I want to see my kids grown up. I was never comfortable in the baby stage, I find my groove in each real conversation I get to have with my girls. I grow as a mother in the moments I can really feel them trust me. And, to learn what trust means and how it looks and how it changes, they have to grow up. They have to have experiences they can’t really share, to learn where their threshold is for opening up. I struggle with the term “lean on me” because it implies they need me in order to succeed. They don’t. They need my guidance, but they needed it before that moment. In that moment I’m not there. My lessons are, hopefully, if I’ve done my job. But that moment of jump? They can’t lean on me, they are all alone. And that doesn’t scare me at all. It gives me those little tingles of excitement because it means I get to glimpse who they are, who they’re turning into, how they deal with struggle, how they express pride and joy and defeat.

I got into parenting for the end game. And I’m ok with that, but am I missing something? Genetically or emotionally am I missing a piece that I’ll regret later? (Can you regret your personality?) Am I trying to justify the plain fact that I don’t actually feel very emotionally attached to the moments they have? Prove I’m a good parent? Profess to the ether that I provide them stability and confidence in other ways? (And who even cares? I guess I care if my daughters care, but by the time they can tell me that they do, I’ll have screwed them up already, soooooo…::saves for therapy times three::)

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

March 3, 2015

“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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A first hand perspective on Finnish schools vs North American schools

February 25, 2015

My twitter feed is varied with every type of account from family, to Moms and Dads, to local breweries, to bird & carrot & bear parody accounts (not kidding), and a smattering of educational tweeters. My Life, represented by social media. This popped into my stream this morning and, well yes I was intrigued. 9 Reasons […]

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