Saturday, August 14, 2010

Solving the World's Ills,( Or Not) One Facebook Wall at a Time:

My FB status: I'm thankful that I'm not the one making the final decision about the fate of Sri Lankan refugees in Vancouver. While I understand the hue and cry about how they ended up on Canadian soil, I'd be hard-pressed to turn them away. For me, compassion will always overshadow cynicism and I am keen to see how this story unfolds...

Jamie: I am keen as well Liz but I am afraid I would disagree. In my opinion our country does not need 400 some odd more people to clog up the social system. There is a process to come here and smuggling is not one. I have always been of the belief that we need people to come here that will better our country. Not to sound stereotypical or racist but we need doctors and such not more convenience store owners and low level labour. I understand that these people the Tamils have been through horrendous trauma, but the fact is this. Some or maybe a large part of these people may be Tamil Tigers fleeing Sri Lanka to avoid being captured and tried. I am sorry if there are innocent people in the mix but I do not believe that Canada should be a dumping ground for the worlds problems.

Diana: Unfortunately when trained people come here, we don't let them do their jobs. :( They end up janitors, etc.

 Jamie: True enough Di. But the majority of the people that are allowed to enter this country possess no skills and are allowed in on compassionate grounds. I am all for being compassionate but not at the expense of adding more people to a country that is straining to find work for people that are born and raised here. Crappy perspective but it is a reality!

Elizabeth: I know. Sigh. And I completely understand a nation's frustration when our debt is already high, jobs are scarce and resources seem to be drying up overnight.
It doesn't seem fair that the system, already overburdened, will be required to enfold 400 more - especially when two other countries have steadfastly refused them entry.
Indeed, there is a process that ought to be followed. (It's the same one my parents navigated in 1965 and I'm so thankful that they were embraced by their country of choice.)
It's the "but" that tugs at me. But...our country protects those who land upon our soil, and it's a law that we, as Canadians, put in place. Who are we then, to disobey ourSELVES?
But...we know not the horrors they faced in Sri Lanka, growing up as we have in the best country in the world. Seems to me that if you're willing to spend 4 long months at sea, packed in with hundreds of others, not knowing what the future holds - if anything - then asylum should be yours.
Back and forth, back and forth I go - this is such a potentially explosive situation, with long-reaching and absolute ramifications, that frankly, it makes my head hurt.

Jamie:  Again I totally understand Liz where you are coming from and to a point I agree. If it was me I would do everything to get away. But like I said. Some of these people are believed to be Tamil Tigers. So do we turn away 400 peoplel and not allow potential terrorists in? Or do we allow international criminals to reap the fruits of the Canadian system? I would rather err on the side of caution and say " Sorry not here".

Rob: Let's send all those Irish boat people back instead!!... oh wait, that would be me...

 Jamie: Jesus Rob! Who would farm the potatoes!

 Elizabeth: I get it, Jamie. I do. I worked with dozens of Sri Lankans in Toronto and they were terrified of the local Tamil Tigers (yes, they're here already, in VAST numbers), something I'd never had to contemplate.

And I believe that the world is watching - some for nefarious reasons - to see what happens on the West Coast. I'd hate to become a nation of terrorist-harbourers, but on the other hand...I think I'd hate more to turn away hundreds of vulnerable human beings.
Damned if we don't, damned if we do, it seems.

Carrie:  I too struggle with this- i volunteered at the refugee shelter in montreal and saw some of the issues that would come out- issues that these people brought and issues that they had upon arrival.

Erin: I need to comment...I cannot keep my mouth shut on this topic! Not only are these people criminal and uneducated but they are SICK. They are bringing disease and sickness that Canada and its occupants are happy to not have to deal with. Canada has set up a healthcare system that WE pay for to ensure vaccinations and disease are managed. Why on earth would you want to not only flood every other system we have with these people but why would you want to flood our already fragile healthcare system??? I say GO AWAY!!

 Rob: For the record, the only Tamil I know has four doctorates (two of them PhDs from Europe) and speaks German, English, and Tamil fluently. He grew up in a church-run orphanage, and when he was old enough he went to say thank you to the German woman who sponsored him as a child. She invited him to stay there and continue his education. He went on to teach at Princeton and now teaches at Liverpool Hope University. He is one of the kindest, gentlest people I've ever met.

 Erin: ok did he come to Canada on a boat like the one that just arrived on our door step?

Erin: You cannot stereotype all people but the conditions of this specific group being referred to is s little different would you not say Rob?

Jamie: Good point Rob. And I never paint a people as a whole with the same brush. But as the soldiers in Afghanistan have found out, you never know who the terrorist is. Is it the young man of 20? The young kid of 12? Or the old grandmother that looks like she would never hurt a fly.

It is cold to say but the fact of the matter is this. We as Canadians have enough problems without adding to the load. We have unemployment, homelessness, an inept government that seems content to fiddle while we burn. I am sure that some of these people are good people. But at some point we have to say "No".

 Rebecca: Woo. And I thought only the U.S. had strong feelings about "foreigners" trying to buck the system to get away from poverty and oppression....

 Jamie: This is not an Arizona thing from my end Rebecca. This is just the reality that we cannot and should not have to help everyone.

Smitha: I think there is something to that particular batch of people. Australia has welcomed tons of Sri Lankan refugees, and there must be steadfast reason as to why they refused these people.

That said - I've seen the plight of the SriLankan tamils first hand, and its not pretty. Neither is the fate of the Simhalese in the war area.

If a country's refusal is based on the fact that refugees eat up resources, that is cold hearted. If the refusal is based on the LTTE suspects, then I'm just sorry for those who are normal people.

Smitha: btw - WHY should we not help everyone? If we were one of them, in a war torn country, escaping to the hope of just walking/sitting without a bomb exploding, would we want someone to turn us away? Because we are unskilled? and sick? Isn't that more grounds of compassion?

 Jamie: Why should I pay ? Compassion is great! But I lost my job and now make half of what I did. And I am supposed to pay more taxes because we should look like the good guy and take every other nations people in. I think not. We have enough home grown problems without this.

 Elizabeth: I guess I feel that with the privilege of living in a country such as ours, where, fragile or not, a relatively accessible healthcare system IS in place, comes the need to extend ourselves to those who have not.

Disease and sickness exist in every country and with global travel and virtually no part of the Earth untouched, we are going out into the world and exposing ourselves to all sorts of things, period. If these particular people are sick, it's likely from being cooped up on a boat together for months on end. Malnutrition. Mostly treatable.

As for lack of education, I'm not sure that people fleeing fortheir lives are concerned with getting a university degree, but ideally, will be able to achieve whatever goals they set once safely settled.
Criminals? Maybe some. Likely some. But not ALL and there's the rub. There's the rub.
I could never properly answer those ethical questions posed at 2 a.m. after too many bottles of red. Specifically, the ones like this: If you could guarantee world peace by killing an innocent person, would you do it?

Always, still, my answer is...I don't know. Thank GOD I don't have to decide.

But while *I* don't have to, WE do.

Jamie: Liz if you ran for office I would vote for you in an instant. Too bad you have so much common sense ;)

 Elizabeth: What is common sense to one is merely a bleeding heart to another. Mark and I have had a few discussions about this, and while we'd normally raise the roof in doing so, we've managed - by some miracle - to keep it to a dull roar.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, my friend. Sadly, I don't have the cojones to run for anything - I'm far too concerned about pleasing the masses. Except, perhaps, in this instance.

Huh. Go figure...

Carrie: ‎"While police were tight-lipped on the conditions of the migrants, Saravanamuttu said that ...that many of the boat people were less than 13 years old."

"When asked if any children were onboard unaccompanied, Johnston of the border agency said only that social workers had been called in."

Which for me - changes everything!

Lawrence: I think we have an obligation to provide help to the underprivileged in our OWN country before we reach out to those from OTHER countries.

Jamie: ‎*clap* *clap* Well said Lawrence!

Lauren:  At the end of the day, a human being is still a human being.

Erin: So we enjoy welcoming into our country H1N1 and Sars and Bird Flu and GOD knows what else because we have no control?? So no control then hey why not be compassionate and generous and help one and all!! Sorry don't buy it!! And by saying "uneducated" I was not referring to these people wanting university degrees I am asking what are they supposed to do now that they are here??? Instead of asking what our country is able to offer and give them, what are they able to offer and give our country???

Elizabeth: I think we have an obligation to BOTH. The fact that *our* underprivileged may have more than *them* does not negate THEIR need, either.

Lawrence: But why do we have an obligation to "them"? With all the money our government has spent on assistance to third world nations and the people therein or recently departed, we could have instituted a program that would provide government-funded post-secondary education for Canadians. That's just one idea.

Elizabeth: As far as my understanding of SARS and H1N1 go, they could have been - and likely were - brought to our fine nation via a commerical air flight, not a shabby ship packed full of refugees.

What are they supposed to do here? What many refugees do: the dirty shit/menial tasks/long shift/crap pay/unprotected by a union/mind-numbing/ego-destroying jobs that many, many, MANY Canadians will not.
Clearly, like our neighbours to the South, we have become a country dependent on all-night convenience stores and a cab when we whistle. We expect our fine city hotels to employ bellhops and car jockeys and concierges and lackeys for little to no pay. Somebody needs to clean to washrooms in our public and private spaces. Somebody needs to toil in our furnace-like factories for 12 hours a day, for minimum wage.

Yes, citizens born here shoulder these and much worse responsibilities, but for the most part? The ones who dreamed of a better life by coming here - they are the ones who suffer through, diligent. Accepting. GRATEFUL.

Elizabeth: Lawrence, I won't argue that post-secondary education should be paid for by our government, because I think it should be so, as well. But nor am I saying that we have wasted money in third world countries, or in helping those who've fled an...d found their way here.

Why does it need to be one OR the other? Can we not reap the benefit of living in this awesome country AND help those people - prisoners of birth, as it were - NOT lucky enough to be born here?

Why should we do this? Well, in my humble opinion, I think we should simply because we can.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Growing Your Family: Part II - Mama Guilt (The Early Days)

See Part I here: Growing Your Family: Part 1

Shakespeare's take on female fury: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

To that I say, "Phfffffftttt! Whatevah, Willie."

To hell with fury - there ain't nothing in the world quite like Mama Guilt. It's an overwhelming, clawing heartache like no other and frankly, I'll take a good ol' scorning over a minute's lie-in-bed-thinking-about-the-ways-I-damaged-my-child-today session. In fact, I'll see your scorning and raise you a public humiliation AND a Facebook de-friending, if only you could take this guilt, just for five minutes.


No? You've got too much of your own, thank you very much? In fact, as the Interloper snuggles in for yet another nursing session and your Firstborn has stomped off to locate the gardening shears, your guilt is washing over you in waves? You feel torn asunder? You cannot breathe for the weight of it?

Ah, yes. Welcome to the REAL guilt. All that stuff you suffered whilst mothering one child was just practice for this:

1. I Don't Think I Can DO This:

I can admit this now and laugh about it, but while I was pregnant with the Interloper I felt consumed by the guilt of knowing that I wouldn't love him as much as I loved his brother. Oh sure, everyone told me that I'd be fine and of course I'd love another baby, but in my deepest heart, I was adamantly unconvinced and it was awful. How could I possibly love another human being the way I did my only child?

In the end, I made a silent, fervent promise to myself: I would go ahead and love my Firstborn more but I would never, EVER tell another living soul and would carry my terrible, horrendously shameful secret to my grave.

Days after this terrible promise, the Interloper was born and as the nurse placed him in my arms, I realized that I'd been terribly, wonderfully wrong. I loved him instantly, wholly, without reserve. "Hello, sweet angel. I've been waiting to love you for my whole life."

Sadly, my elation at losing the guilt of not loving him enough was swiftly replaced by the equally heart aching shame of even thinking that I wouldn't....sigh....minutes old and he'd already broken my heart.

This, I have come to realize, will continue until I draw my last breath of this life: In loving these little people, we are vulnerable in ways we'd never imagined. And if we're not, they'll find a way to make it so.

 2. Your Darling Firstborn Has Been Possessed by the Devil.

Looking back, I now see where my Firstborn began his slide toward Satan.

When he and Daddy arrived at the hospital to meet his new baby brother and to take us home, he wouldn't even hug me, barely spared me a glance. All he wanted to do was hold Daddy's hand and cover Daddy's neck with kisses. It was almost like he'd thought to himself, "Hmm...what's the quickest way to punish Mummy for growing me a brother? Oh, yes: Love. Daddy. Best."

The days that followed were tiring and weirdly calm as we began to adjust to a new family member, but I knew. Knew that my Firstborn was feeling pushed aside and pushed out. I knew by the way he leaned over the nursing Interloper and instead of laying a gentle kiss upon his brow like I'd been hoping, he head butted him RIGHT ON THE SOFT SPOT so hard, the Interloper popped off my breast and wailed without sound. Yeah. That cry.

I could tell that his frustration was rising when he began throwing temper tantrums over wearing socks with his shoes and wailing like a banshee at 3 a.m. for no good reason at all. (Naturally, this was his way of getting my clear and furiously undivided attention, and I ought to have ignored him but the guilt and the hormones got the better of me and I ended up sitting upright all night long with a boy at one breast and a boy curled next to the other, weeping. But I digress...)

I knew by the way he dropped his little chin to his chest when I gently explained that I couldn't take him to the park right now, Sunshine, Mummy's nursing the baby.

Sorry, Sweetheart, Mummy can't play soccer with you right now, I'm nursing the baby.

Oh, Magoo, I-Love-You, I WANT to bake our special "Mummy & Matthew" cake like we did last week, but right now, I'm nursing the baby...

In just a minute Matthew...
In a little while Matthew,
When I'm done nursing the baby, Matthew,
When I'm done changing the baby, Matthew,
Not right now Matthew,
Don't wake the baby, Matthew,
There, you've gone and woke the baby, Matthew!!

I literally ached watching my own father step in and perform every, single one of my duties: he dressed, fed, changed, played with, bathed, scolded, cuddled, read to, chided, and tucked my beloved firstborn child in every night for a week straight.

You know what I did for a week straight? Nursed the Interloper and let the guilt - now doubled because I was feeling guilty for dumping all of my responsibilities on my father, whom I'm pretty sure just really wanted to mow the lawn and drink beer - completely and totally overwhelm me. Three years later, the looking back is easy. Hopefully, these tips will help you in these early days.

To survive:

1. Try to be there when your Firstborn wakes up in the morning, arms empty of the Interloper and waiting just for her/him. Let your smile be the first thing he sees and greet the day as you did before the Interloper came along - just you and him, together.

2. Let him pick out his clothes for the day and which cereal to eat for breakfast. (Go ahead and buy a box of sugar-coated crap. Do NOT allow yourself to feel badly about this. Baby teeth fall out and it's not like you're feeding him crap all day long, right? Water down his juice if this makes you feel better.)

3. I made up a silly song for mornings and we still sing it. If anything, it puts ME in the right frame of mind and at the very least, lets me have 30 seconds of "Good Mummy" ness to recall later in the day when both children are in Time-Out and I'm about to hurl myself out the window. It goes like this:

"Good morning! Good morning!
 Happy day to you!
 Good morning! Good morning!
 I love you, Magoo!"

* This song can later be altered to end with, "I love you, and YOU!" to include the Interloper, thereby neatly circumventing any guilt you may have about not including both children. *

4. 20 Minutes, Twice a Day

Set aside 20 minutes in the morning, after you've fed the Interloper and he's (hopefully) sleeping in his bouncy chair, to play with your Firstborn. You can play trucks or tea party or dress-up or line-up-the-shoes - but let your Firstborn choose and stay focused. Do NOT allow your gaze to wander about the disaster that is your kitchen or to rest longingly on the couch that's calling your name. Do NOT idly flip through the nearest issue of "Today's Parent" magazine when it's not your turn. Play! Engage. Be.

In the afternoon, before the witching hour leading up to dinner and before the fresh new hell known as "bed time", do it all again. 20 minutes. If you can manage a walk to the park, do it.

 Let your Firstborn stop and inspect every blade of grass along the way. Let him balance on the cupholder of the stroller if he wants to and ignore the clucking/shaking heads from your neighbours as you trundle by. Push him on the swing for 10 more minutes after you've given the 5-minute warning. If you need to nurse the Interloper during this time, then do so, but if some other Mummy offers to burp or hold him afterward, let her. Bring snacks - the good ones. Let him drink from your bottle, shriek as loudly as he wants and climb the playground equipment without his shoes on.

All in, these 40 minutes will sustain you later as you mentally beat yourself up, so enjoy them!

Because Mama?

This too shall pass. This too, shall pass. All too soon, this too shall pass.