unLessons from the Posse

Biking in Waterton Lakes National Park

Photo from the newspaper "Nogales Herald&...

As we come around the corner, the crowds scatter, jump, recoil. First one–two–three–flying like the wind, silver scooters carrying them along like lightening, legs pumping–and then four–five–bent lower over the handle bars, legs pumping even faster to keep up with the vanguard–and you think they’re all through, but no, here comes six, working harder than everyone else because he has to keep up. And me, at the end, with number seven in the bike. Calling out, “High traffic area! Everyone keep to the right!” But they don’t hear me, of course; of course, they don’t, because there is only speed, wind, the path, and the posse.

I love the posse. Three are mine, four are borrowed for the day. Four people have the temerity to ask, as we zoom by, “Oh-my-god-are-they-all-yours?” and sometimes, I would punish them with The Look, but today I am happy, so I just smile. One-half of one couple is so appalled by the procession that is us that the beautiful young woman turns to her husband-boyfriend and says, loudly, fully intending me to hear, “And this, honey, is why we always use condoms.” I’d give her The Look, but then I catch the husband-boyfriend’s look, and it is one of such joy-envy-lust that instead of giving her The Look, I give him The Grin, and we have a very quick, secret psychic conversation:

Him: Seven, eh? Six boys? Man. My own fucking hockey team.

Me: Imagine the soccer games you would have.

Him: Basketball. Camping!

Me: You’d just sit in the chair, and they’d set up the tent.

Him: The littlest one would bring me beer.

Me: You’d build them the best treehouse ever, right?

Him: Oh, fuck, yeah. Would I ever. So… um… you wanna have more kids?

Me: No, I’m done. Sorry.

Him: Okay then. Well, have a good day

Me: Good luck with her, eh?

Him: Yeah… not sure this is going to work out.

We move on. Along the river. Over this bridge. That one. I don’t even attempt to tell them to stick with me–they are a posse, The Posse, and The Posse don’t wait for no Mom. But I am wise in the ways of The Posse, so I don’t ask. I command. “Meet me at the Dragonfly!” I yell to their backs. “Go ahead–and wait for me at the crossing! We all cross together!” It doesn’t matter how fast I go–they go faster. It’s all about being alone, really. I can read the fantasy, in the three eldest anyway. As far as they are concerned, they are alone.

We stop. Regroup. Do a headcount.

Me: Fuck. Five. Who’s missing?

They: The twins.

Me: Your mom’s going to kill me. Where are they?

They: Who knows?

Me: Dudes! No man left behind! Find them!

Phew. Just fixing their helmets by some bushes. Onward. But now I have given them a new war cry. They push off:

No man left behind!

Flora scoots beside me. “Did they leave me behind because I’m not a man?” she whines. “They didn’t leave you behind,” I point out. “You came to visit with me.”

Up ahead on the path: wipeout!

Me: Blood?

Him: I’m okay.

You don’t show weakness in The Posse.

The Posse fractures. Its members fight. When we stop at a playground and they play a mad game of tag with rules so complicated it makes my head spin, my eldest gets his nose out of joint. The twins think they’re picked on. Flora feels left out. Mostly, I stay out of it. Sometimes, I nudge towards a solution. But mostly–I let them be The Posse. I’m there to make sure there is no real injustice … but they know most of the rules of engagement. They are learning how to work things out. This is not Lord of the Flies.

My final test as Mom-wise-in-the-ways-of-The-Posse comes when we hit an ice rink. The ice is melting, sloppy. But still slippery. I see the desire in their eyes. The two eldest look and do a risk analysis. Then decide to try to break their bones on the nearby playground instead. The littles dump the scooters and go to slip and slide on their feet. But he-who-will-test-me comes up to me and says,

“Can we scooter on that?”

It’s a test. Any mother in her right mind would say no, and he knows this. And I know that he knows this. We look at each other, take each other’s measure. And I say,

“I can’t fit seven kids in my car if we have to go to the Children’s Hospital… Look, keep your helmet on, and no whining or crying at all unless there’s massive amounts of blood, and you’ve lost more than two teeth.”

He looks at me. Mildly appalled. His mom would have said no, outright, his eyes tell me, and I’m clearly irresponsible. Criminally so. But I’ve just given him permission. Really. If he doesn’t go on the ice, I’ll know it’s because he’s afraid. Of blood. Losing teeth. He’ll lose face.

He puts the scooter on the ice. Scoots.

“It’s not slippery enough to be fun,” he tells me. Drops it. And goes off to join The Posse.

We pass another couple on the last block home. This time, I have a quick, secret psychic conversation with the girl:

Her: Is it hard?

Me: Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.

When The Possee’s split up, and four-sevenths goes home with Fishtank Mom, they are all exhausted. And not-a-little tired of each other. But next time–next time, they’ll gel together again. Feel the wind, the speed. Be the pack. Fight, fracture, learn. Is it hard? Fuck, yeah. But so worth it.

Photo from the newspaper “Nogales Herald” dated July 20, 1922 showing an American posse after capturing the Mexican bandits Manuel Martinez and Placidio Silvas (middle of back row) who killed or wounded five people at or around Ruby, Arizona in 1921 and 1922. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And a thank you to the fabulous Tatu from Wonderland By Tatu for including Nothing By The Book in the shininess of the Sunshine Award. As you may have noticed, I truly suck at passing these on adequately. Not out of any better-than-thouness, truly, just out of… what shall we call it… laziness.Pure laziness. But thank you muchly, Tatu, you made me all smiley and sunny on a hard day. Here’s the link to the last one of these that I’ve paid back “properly,” which includes some irrelevant facts about myself and some of my favourite bloggers.

Life lessons from large families

I (accidentally) zipped through Meagan Francis’ Table for Eight last week, a book about living as a large family in a small family world (irrelevant aside: ended up on my Kobo because I thought it was a “big cook” cookbook–you know, recipes up-sized for large groups?). We’re not really a large family–three kids, two adults, one small, but troublesome dog–but most of the time, I have an extra kid or two or three in tow or in the house–and many of the families we spend most of our time with are three or four or more kid families, so there were many parts of the book that resonated with me on some level. And some parts that I experienced purely as a voyeur, sometimes rather glad it wasn’t me having to figure out how to sort eight kids between three bedrooms… and sometimes regretful that Ender won’t have a sibling close in age to bunk with.

My favourite line from the book:

“Surrender to motherhood … but don’t give yourself up entirely.”

I found that quote, and Francis’ entire “Time for Mom” chapter quite in synch with my thinking around family time, self-actualization and family harmony.

Another tidbit that really resonated with me (and then had me pondering, “But what does this say about me, really?”) was this:

Part of the way I keep my life simple is by gravitating toward emotionally healthy, stable people who don’t pick fights with me or each other. … The way I look at it is this: I spend a lot of time with emotionally immature people: my children. They’re still growing and learning about social interaction, and it’s my job to help them. I just don’t have the time to deal with emotionally immature grown-ups, too!


(Although, I have to confess, I sometimes see this as a character failing in myself. Am I just too selfish and intimacy-averse to enter into your latest drama? To offer you the support you crave? I don’t know. Perhaps. But as a result, I’m pretty balanced, stable and undrained myself, so if that’s what selfishness looks like, so be it.)

The best lesson from the book, which took me almost 10 years and three kids to figure out:

I was at a family party where the food was laid out buffet-style… I filled a plate for myself, sat down, and ate, and then called them to the tabe.

“What kind of a mother feeds herself before her children?” my grandmother asked.

“A full one,” I retorted.

I’m not extrapolating this one to anything other than food: read nothing else into it, but take the food lesson as it is. It took me almost 10 years of cold coffee, half-chewed food, food thrown into my mouth as it was leaving the table, after-thought meals that weren’t really meals, to learn to eat well, regularly–and often before feeding the children. Now I eat first whenever I can (with babies, nurslings and toddlers, it’s not always possible, but one must seize the moment). I eat well. And everyone’s happier. (Including the thinner and more energetic me.)

English: Come on Kids! I know where to get som...

Interest piqued about Table for Eight, but not sure if it’s for you? Here’s a review of the book from the website Lots Of Kids, and here’s Francis’ blog, The Happiest Mom.