The X factor.

” Bye Mom- love you! ” , she said as she walked out the door to go to school.

I stood by the window holding my 7 month old son, and we both watched her walk away down the street. I’ve never been religious – never even gone to church for that matter - yet found myself thinking: ” Please God, keep her safe for me. “

  I continued to watch her until she turned up the path at the end of the street, then disentangled the babies iron grasp on my hair. He’s got a thing going with my hair these days,and I’m starting to worry that it’s going to imprint what he finds attractive  in a woman later in life.  My hair is the longest it’s been in a few years, well below my shoulders now, and often he just sits on my lap and gazes longingly at it as he drags his little fingers through the curls. He is a cute little bugger, very expressive, and such a man. All my sons seem to have been born with hefty doses of testosterone. This littlest one looks longingly at the bottle when I have a beer, as if he somehow knows what refreshing coolness lies inside.  He drools at the sight of hamburger and steak, and only talks to pretty women.

I’m serious. He only smiles at pretty women. Having a cute baby in a baby carrier is a chick magnet. ( single men – try borrowing a baby to take for a walk if you want to meet a woman. I guarantee  it to be 100% effective) My daughter even bought him a onesie for Christmas saying just that, because it never fails – women have to come over and remark on how cute he is. Then they try to make him smile via the traditional cooing and silly faces. And, of course it works – but only if the woman behind all this silliness is cute. If shes not so attractive, you won’t get a smile out of him and he actually turns away! Enough proof  for me to confirm men are visual creatures, programmed before birth.

We walked back to the kitchen with my 4 year old, when my  oldest son stopped by from his dads on the way to school. Opening the door, he scolded me for making him hug me in front of his friends to get 3 bucks for pizza and pop yesterday afternoon. ” Thanks, mom. They all think I’m a dork now. ”  I apologized with a grin, but when I turned around I noticed he was smiling too. He pretends he hates it when I do that, but I noticed he still brings all his friends over for the cookies I make. They act like starving jackal’s when they see the plate, eyes desperate for the sugar laden chocolate  goodies I bake once a week. I’m the only mom that bakes, they tell me, and makes sandwiches. None of these kids had ever eaten homemade anything before. My son is spoiled, I guess.  At 15, he towers over me with a lanky 6’4″ frame. His feet are a size 13 and I can fit nearly both of mine in one of his shoes. How did this child come from me? It amazes me still that the entire potential for this funny mix of man/boy wrestling with his little brother came from one tiny little egg, and one tiny little sperm. It ( conception, pregnancy,birth) is the most puzzling, intriguing , beautiful and awe-inspiring miracle on this planet. 

After he left I checked my calender, noting that my daughters early admission college registration fee needs to be paid. She  graduates in May, exactly twenty years after I graduated high school myself, a fact that makes me cringe when I think about the inevitable reunion notification. I’m so proud of her, this beautiful tall woman who is more often mistaken for my sister than my daughter. She is a younger, brunette version of me, and she loves to brag that I’m actually her mom when this happens. People look at us weird then, thinking that I must have been a teen when I had her, although I wasn’t. Good genes, I guess. She is full of  that hope and vivaciousness that only teenagers seem to possess; that indefatigable ability to conquer all, the sparkling as -of -yet untarnished ideal that every dream is possible and limited only by yourself.

I hope she doesn’t lose that  ideal- ever. My older two are survivors, like myself. They were the innocent bystanders to my exes abuse, and although I was careful to never let them see what he did, I know now I was not successful at hiding it.  She no longer visits or speaks to her dad, by her choice . My son was there when his father chased me down in Richmond Centre and had me up against a pillar in a store, surrounded by hundreds of people and I wonder if the same choice will come to him as he gets older. Some wrongs can never be forgotten, or forgiven.

I’m thinking about all of this now, because honestly, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t worry about each and every one of them. All this public violence scares me. I can’t stop anything bad from happening to them when they are out on their own. I’m pretty sure that what I’ve taught them will guide their actions and choices, but it’s the X factor that scares me.

Will my daughter be out for dinner with all her friends at some trendy restaurant when some asshole gangbanger decides to take his girlfriend out to the same place?  Will they be sitting there , beside his table when the bullets fly through the window?  Will I be the next one to get a call in the evening, or have two RCMP show up at my door with a solemn expression and horrible task at hand?

And what about my son? As much as some people in Surrey would like to pretend otherwise, there are definitive racial tensions in our schools that cause problems outside the hallowed walls of learning. He – and others - have been goaded by young, South Asian gang members in his school because he is ” a white boy “, and they think they can start something because of it. Some people have begun to confuse discipline with racism however, and so those creating the problems in the first place go un-punished. You have to love that race card. First mention of it and everyone backs off. No one wants to be called a racist. Whatever happened to punishing kids based on unacceptable behavior? Shithead punks come in all colours, do they not?

 And so I worry – not too much, he’s a big guy after all, and can hold his own -  but in the event someone pulls a gun, or a knife… I shudder now, thinking of that very real possibility. There is no defence against the unknown.

And then there are those stupid,selfish,drunk drivers. My teens might be smart enough to know better, but what happens to them at the stoplight when some ass who thought he could make it home after a few drinks, runs a red light and smokes them with his vehicle? I have no tolerance for stupidity, for not knowing when enough is enough, or for the person who didnt think to cut them off. Culpability runs deep in these particular waters.

And again…back to those bullets that seem to be flying everywhere.

The X factor.

Can’t control it. Can’t predict it. Can’t stop it. Every parents worst nightmare.

When I was 19, an older co-worker who had children told me that there is nothing stronger, nothing sweeter or more fierce than the love a mother feels for her child.

I’ve found this to be true.

I’m sure the parents of  all of these gang members feel no different than I, as parents.

 I’d ask any of them to think of my kids though, and how they would get along in life without me, if I were shot as a bystander, perhaps while out buying  groceries.

 Or if one of my children was caught in the crossfire while out celebrating a friends birthday…

Parent to parent, could you live with yourself if your child killed mine, and you could have stopped it ?

Could you? Sometimes we have to make hard choices as parents, but it is your duty nonetheless. That’s right. Your duty.

When I began having children 17 years ago, I naively thought you worried less as they grew older.

I know now, that’s not true at all. You worry just as much,even more sometimes than when they were little. At least when they are little you have greater control over their lives, and their actions. As young adults ? Not so much. I’m starting to get grey hair – but if it is due to natural process or increased worry, I honestly do not know.

I  do know one thing though.

I hug my big, man’child  son, every  single chance I get. I hug him even if he tries to get away and I have to wrestle him to the ground. I bury my face into his chest(  that’s as high as I can get now) and  hug him tight and try to memorize the way he smells( like Axe and sweat)  and sounds ….and I tell him I love him. 

I grab my daughter when she isn’t expecting it and hold her close and give her a big kiss on the cheek – which thankfully, I don’t have to wrestle her to the ground for.

I toss my 4 year old onto the bed, hold his hand up over his head and  tell him ” you are under arrest! ”  In between torrid giggles, he asks ” Why? What for? ”  then, I get really, really close to his face, give him a big smooch, and tell him: ” Because you are tooooooooo cute! ”  and then I ‘punish’ him with three minutes of non-stop kisses and tickles until he begs for no more.

And my baby? The one who is now beginning to talk and crawl and grow up far too fast for my liking?

I don’t mind getting up to hold him in the middle of the night when he cant find a way to fall back to sleep on his own. I creep into the bedroom he shares with his older brother, pick him up, and melt into that ardent little baby hug he gives me in the dark. I squeeze him tightly and inhale that heady baby scent still capable of making me smile every time I catch a whiff and I yearn for more. And when I think about how many more years of  scratched knees, broken toys, falls and boo-boos , and the worry I have ahead of me still… I stop, take a deep breath – and smile. It’s what I was meant to do.

I’m their mother, after all.

Despite all the worry.

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3 Responses to The X factor.

  1. siovhinn says:

    Your post is beautiful – I know, feel and enjoy everything you have mentioned with my two daughters and I cherish every moment. Sometime you just wish time would slow down just so you have more time with them. My eldest daughter turns 20 in May and I dread the day she decides it is time to move. My youngest is 15.

    I maybe there mom but they are also my best friends forever.

    • Laila says:

      Thank you, I think the feelings of motherhood are inherently universal… that being said, I would love to hear the fathers version of this. I’m sure it is as compelling and bittersweet as ours.

  2. BC Mary says:

    You made that family picture easy to read, Laila, but I bet it wasn’t easy to write today’s posting and to catch the big, big passions hidden in the subtleties. Thank you for the warm images. Brava, Mama!!

    That family scene created the perfect backdrop to illustrate the unavoidable anxieties about the criminality threatening our communities.

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