When They’re Ready

One blazing-hot summer day, when I was a small child, I almost drowned while at a day camp. 

That is the way 5-year-old me remembers the incident, anyway. My group was taken to swim at the big junior high pool, and as part of some kind of test, we were lined up like petite penguins, and one by one asked to jump into the deep end. 

In reality, it was probably the shallow end, but one is short when one is only 5. The point is, that I had never had to jump into water over my head before.

I was one of those can’t-get-my-face-wet kids. I pleaded to not have to do it, but the unsympathetic teenage captors counsellors prodded me to the pool’s edge, and so I leapt.

I remember the sinking, echoey feeling of floundering underwater. Of not being able to breathe. So this is it, I thought, I’m drowning.

Before darkness closed in, I was hoisted to the surface, water-logged and teary, and ejected from the pool to shiver in a towel somewhere.

My enduring feeling to this day, is of shame at not being able to perform this simple exercise that “everyone else” could do.

But the truth is that I just wasn’t ready. Being pushed, literally, at the wrong time created a negative association with swimming that lasted for years. 

With my own kids, I’ve tried – key word –  to strike that balance between an encouraging push and allowing them to get to something on their own terms.

We’ve all witnessed that parent publicly pushing their child to do something they’re not ready to try. Come on, you can do it. Stop whining. I’m right here. Nothing’s going to happen. The child is in tears and the parent is fuming. There’s nothing worse. 

Actually, there is something worse than witnessing it, and that is being that parent.

But it is also true that there are times that our kids will not do something without the required pressure. My oldest would never have gone to overnight camp without a little momentum, but I waited until he was almost 10 before signing him up. I knew that he wasn’t anywhere near ready at the age of 8, as many kids are. 

My daughter came to this world to spread joy and fun times. She is the life of the party, exuberant and affectionate. She’s also as stubborn as a mule, or an ox or any other stubborn animal you can name. You can want her to do something all you want. But if she’s not ready. It. Is. Not. Happening.

Almost two years ago, we bought her a bike.

This bike:

It was everything her four-year-old heart dreamt of. It was sky-blue, strewn with flowers, and had matching pastel streamers.

She had a few wobbly outings on the quiet street behind our house. My husband did that awkward knees-bent run beside her, to keep her stable and prevent a major collision. She made a little progress.

She was very excited about having the bike, but absolutely not excited about riding the bike. Each time I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride, the answer was no. No amount of coaxing or cajoling helped.

Eventually, the cold weather came and our bikes went to hibernate in the garden shed. Then came the first spring of the pandemic, and every 5 year old in our neighbourhood was cycling circles around us. Every day, I asked her if she wanted to get her bike out and have a little ride. The answer was no, no and again, no.

I started to get annoyed, and became, for awhile, that parent. 

I ramped up the coaxing.

I tried some small bribes. 

I even resorted to threats like these, “Well, if you don’t ride your bike, you obviously don’t want it, so I’ll have to give it away.”

I don’t recommend any of these strategies.

In danger of creating an I-almost-drowned-at-daycamp moment for her, I quietly stopped with the bike.

The summer flew by, and the bicycle continued to gather dust.

Another spring! 2021. After the winter of our despair, hope welled up anew. 

In April, I began plotting about how to get her on the road without prompting the digging in of heels. 

I finally realized that there was something about riding in the laneway behind our house that just wasn’t working for her. She needed new territory.

With that thought in mind, I loaded my two kids’ bikes in the back of the car and took them to a running track at a local high school. It is wide, it is 400m long, and it is perfectly flat. 

She was hesitant and needed some convincing to get into the car, but with her brother riding point for moral support, her streamers finally flew in the wind. First one lap. Then another. 

Turns out, all she needed was a change of scenery. Such a simple solution!

Going up to the track to ride her bike became a daily occurrence. She finally was able to voice that she was terrified of falling. But, she also finally realized that you actually can’t learn to ride without a few falls. 

She’s become incredibly proficient at getting up again.

As much as she loved her sky-blue baby, eventually, she was forced to admit that it was too small for her. So we upgraded to a geared bike, a huge step up that I would never have imagined several months before.

A girl and her bike.

She then asked me if biking is a sport in the Olympics. To which I say, Citius – Altius – Fortius.


Today is a wonderful day.

Today I celebrate my son’s 12th year on the Earth.

Somehow, inexplicably, twelve years have flown and crawled and staggered past us. Ten years have gone since his cancer diagnosis, and time has rubbed away some of the horror of that wound, for all of us.

2020 has, and let’s not sugar-coat it, been a bit of a shit year all ’round, am I right? All of our lovely plans have gone up in smoke, the global pandemic rages on, and the uncertainty of what the future holds has us staring at the ceiling at night, and anxiously checking our news-feeds over and over.

I haven’t been immune to it. Fear has definitely got its sharp hooks into me too.

But I’ve been here before. 2010 was the worst year of my life. I stood on the brink of losing my only child oh-so-many times. Every day was a different kind of struggle. I was happy too, though, because I still had him. The highs were high and the lows were very low.

Continue reading “Twelve”


There are a lot of posts and memes going around right now about how much we Gen Xers are showing quarantine/social distancing who’s boss. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety member of the older generation, it’s true. In our day we had to play with pet rocks for chrissakes!

Sometimes it feels like the kids of today have it all.

And by all, I mean things like devices that cost hundreds of dollars and provide endless hours of fun and excitement. When I was a kid, it was mind-boggling to have, like, Atari. (We never had Atari.) Even a game as low-budget as a Wonderful Waterful was pretty entertaining. (And honestly, I don’t know if we actually had one of those either.)

Remember these? My dentist used to give me and the sibs these to play with while he tortured treated us. My kids get to watch whatever they want on Netflix at the dentist.

Back in the heyday of the 80s, when you went over to a friend’s house, you played outside in the backyard. Completely unsupervised of course. My brother and his friend used to light GI Joes on fire using cans of Lysol spray to incinerate them.

Continue reading “Boing”


Now that we’ve all got all the time on our hands, it’s a good moment to dust off that juicer that’s been suffering neglect in your cupboard. I’ve had this baby below for, probably, sixteen years.

Breville makes a durable juicer. Circa 2005?

When we’re going through health-kick phases, it lives on the counter, so that everyone knows what kind of a**holes we are when they come into the house. Otherwise, we keep it in an annoyingly inaccessible cupboard, making daily use impossible.

It’s back on the counter now! Because if the Internet has taught me something, it’s that celery juice can cure anything if consumed in the correct quantities.

Juice doesn’t have to be that hard. It doesn’t need to taste like grass to do you good. I usually just throw a bunch of stuff in there with carrot as a base. (Because cheap)

In these crazy times, food waste has become a cardinal sin. Making juice is also a great way to use up fruit and veggies that have gone a bit past prime.

Carrots, apples, etc. Whatever you want, really.

The biggest bonus of all is watching your children consume nutrition in a glass without even arguing, as beets = pink.

The other day, the kids and I made a juice, and then used the pulp to make muffins. I know, I am amazing.

I’ve made these before, so had a recipe in mind, but it was similar to this one.

The reality check of all this healthy living is that I ended up standing in the kitchen for two hours, making juice and cleaning juicer parts. And making muffins with a child on hand who wanted to “help” but basically spilled every ingredient before storming off in tears because Mummy is mean.

Stuck in the house though, what else have I got to do except clean up messes that my kids make? What are you doing to safeguard your health? Celery juice? ?

In Uncertain Times

Hemingway didn’t say this exactly, but whatevs.

I normally roll my eyes at inspirational quotes, but there are times when they are just necessary, am I right?

Friends. I know.

I know that we’re all reeling from the turn things have taken, world-wide, over the last few weeks. And if you are fortunate enough to be in a place that COVID-19 has yet to invade, take a deep breath, and know that things may soon change very quickly for you too.

Or they may not.

That is the one given in life, its extreme unpredictability. In Toronto, two weeks ago, we were all humming along, going to work, school and play and touching every single thing in the world without wondering how long coronavirus can survive on a given surface. Now we are all figuring out how social distancing works. We’re isolated in our houses with the kids, squirting our home-made hand sanitizer over every available surface. And wondering how long the toilet paper will last.

We can only guess what the future holds. Right now, the media isn’t helping us. Yes, access to quality information is important, but each day that we spend glued to our newsfeeds, watching the case numbers tick ever higher, is a day that we’ve lost to fear.

I know how you’re feeling. I’ve read all the articles and I’ve had all the anxiety. I’ve woken in the night wondering if I do, in fact, already have the virus.

So, my family, like everyone else, are trying to figure out a new routine. A new way to be when our options are limited. This is hard for the Gen Xers and the Millennials. We’ve spent our lives with nothing BUT choice, opportunity, and freedom and now, as the economy tanks, we’re left wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

There are a lot of people in a lot of need right now. Many who don’t know where their next paycheque is coming from or how they’re going to feed the kids.

Despite my own anxieties, I know that, for now, I’m in a safe place. We’re not on total lockdown. We have enough to eat. We’ve got 20 rolls of TP stocked in the cupboard.

So I’m thinking about the things I can do to help. How can I help my own family? How can I help to keep small businesses afloat? How can I help to feed people in my community? (Please let me know in comments what your thoughts are!)

There was a time when we were the ones who needed help. Almost 10 years ago, my oldest, my son Bean, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. He went through an incredibly difficult chemo regime, which ended with three rounds of bone marrow transplant. From September through to January of the year 2010 – 2011, he barely went outside, in fact was confined to an isolation room at Sick Kids for months on end.

I was free to come and go, somewhat, but he had to stay, and we had to keep him safe. Safe meant no germs, no interactions with people. It meant sanitizing every single object that went into his room. Washing Duplo in boiling hot water and soap and wiping every piece of a jigsaw puzzle with anti-bac wipes.

Those days were very long. And very hard. Many people told me to take it “one day at a a time.” Which felt like such useless, bullshit advice. There is no other way to live your days. But the meaning is this: Just get through today. Just focus on the positives. Try not to dwell too much on what may come, but accept the gift of the now.

And we were given so much help. People were generous and true.

So those are the lessons that I’m remembering in this time of terrible uncertainty. Each day:

  • Health: Do something that is good for you, and for the health of your family.
  • Beauty: Find it anywhere you can. Create art.
  • Connect: Keep connecting with your friends. If you can go out, do a wave-by of someone’s house. Set up video chat for your kids and their buddies. Do an old-school phone chat.
  • Routine: Set up a daily schedule and stick to it.
  • Help: Figure out how to support those in need.

We humans are terribly resilient. We’ve survived famines and wars and disease. We’ve adapted and changed and grown. We will get through this too, though we don’t know what the world will look like on the other side of it.

Be well, my friends. Courage, my loves! ❤️❤️❤️