Happy day-after-Mother’s-Day to all the not-my-mothers!


Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Unless you’ve been in a coma since stores started advertising pink stuff (right after they marked the Easter chocolate down by 75%), you know that. Hopefully, you took the opportunity to show your mother that you appreciate her. If you are a mother, hopefully, you felt appreciated. Because being a mother can be a tough task (if you’re doing it right, anyway). Those little angels start by wrecking your body as they exit, and they spend years metaphorically drinking your blood, sweat and tears – and, at least for the first little while – they can’t say thank you. In fact, until they’re about four, they don’t give a damn about you and wouldn’t say thank you even if they could. As far as they’re concerned, you’re like the sun and the moon. Up all day and all night, shining for them – it never occurs to them that it could be any different. Bridget expressed utter shock, and a healthy amount of skepticism when she found out, at the age of four, that I actually sleep. And children are expensive! The amount of money I’ve spent on wine and anti-wrinkle creams since becoming a mother could have bought me a yacht by now, I swear.

For years, Ryan did the heavy lifting when it came to making me feel good about being a mother on Mother’s Day. He still gives me a beautifully worded card, and flowers or garden trinkets, makes food and does housework – and, of course, brings home a big ol’ bucket of fried chicken for dinner because nothing tells this Beth she is loved like disgustingly, deliciously greasy food. Now, though, my girls are old enough to treat me well on Mother’s Day – and they do. They gave me fancy bath junk and flavoured teas, two lovely cards and a collection of homemade coupons for everything from dishwasher emptying and lunch-making to a spa day. I had a nice chat with my mother and my mother-in-law. I scrolled my Facebook newsfeed (yes, I’m back) and marveled at just how much people had to say about mothers. Boy, do we ever love our mothers! (Well, on Mother’s Day on social media, we do, anyway.)

Yesterday had me thinking about a different category of women, too, ones that I didn’t say anything about because I didn’t want to take Mother’s Day away from all the deserving mothers out there. I owe my mother alot. More than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. But she isn’t the only woman who mothered me. Over the years, my aunts have spent hours listening to what I have to say. They’ve offered comfort and advice and encouragement. They’ve put me up in their homes and generously shared their fine cooking with me. They’ve celebrated my milestones with me. Likewise, the mothers of my good friends. I ran in and out of their houses, grabbing snacks and making messes and staying the night more times than I can count. They schlepped me to Brownies and piano lessons and figure skating and youth group events right along with their own kids. They took the time to listen to me in a way that showed me they really cared about me – they didn’t have to, and they already had their hands full with their own family, but they did. Even their grandmothers knew who I was and welcomed me at their table right along with everyone else if I happened to be there at dinnertime. Sweet ladies who gave me a hug and kiss just as if I were their granddaughter. My mother’s friends showed up without hesitation when I called them for help (which I did more than once). My mother did the same for my friends. Many of them called her “Mom Two”, and she still asks about them when we talk. I have no doubt that if any of them turned up at her house she’d be thrilled to let them open the fridge, grab a snack and slouch on her couch like they did all those years ago.

I had a series of long-suffering babysitters. My energetic, mischievous, saucy arse surely made them question how badly they needed the money my parents gave them. Yet, they made me feel like I was one of their own children whenever I was dropped off at their house. They’re still cheering for me today, from miles away, complimenting my photos and asking about my vacations and saying “I remember you when”.

I had wonderfully involved female teachers – strong role models, all. They didn’t put up with any bullshit, but they encouraged me to think critically and question what didn’t add up and proudly express myself.

Fiona and Bridget are now benefiting from the same thing – aunts who listen to them, teach them things, make crafts with them, and watch movies with them. Their Auntie Di is even letting them use their baby cousins as test dummies on which to sharpen their babysitting skills. Great-aunts who spoil them from a distance with a little gift for every occasion. Friends’ mothers who kindly open their home to them, offering gentle discipline and encouragement and endless granola bars and popsicles. Friends of mine who rarely show up at our house without a treat for the girls, chat with them with genuine interest in their thoughts and lives, send cards and letters at Christmas and Valentine’s Day and Easter and birthdays. I am certain these friends would be there for Fiona and Bridget without pause, if ever they are asked. They have had wonderful experiences with daycares of various types. The women (and, yes, they were mainly women) looking after them treated them with a tenderness and concern and emotional generosity that made it clear that Fiona and Bridget were more than just a job to them. Their teachers, from kindergarten all the way to today, have been more than just educators. They’ve been carers. Channelling Fiona’s exuberance into positive change for other students. Reaching through Bridget’s shyness to draw her out of her shell and show her how strong she really is. Taking the time to make sure neither girl is ever left behind in any subject. Finding the best in each of them, and helping them polish it to a high gleam.

Yesterday was a day for mothers, and rightly so. But today I celebrate others. Hallmark has yet to come out with cards for some of these people. I have a few suggestions:

Thank you, sixth-grade teacher, for putting an arm around my shoulder and telling me I was doing just fine in gym class when I hadn’t made a single basket in four weeks of learning basketball.

Thanks, friends’ parents, for not throwing me out of your car on the side of the highway when I led the whole backseat in yowling “There’s a Hole in my Bucket” all the way from Robert’s Arm to Springdale and back.

Sorry for my sass. You didn’t get paid enough to listen to that.

Sorry I broke your stuff even though I didn’t live in your home, and won’t take care of you in your old age.

Thanks, Auntie, for picking up the phone every time, knowing you were going to listen to God-knows-what for God-knows-how-long.

And on and on. Maybe this is more of a Thanksgiving post, but my thank-yous were already long overdue – they couldn’t wait til October. Happy day-after-Mother’s-Day, not-my-mothers!


Melissa Abekah serves up organic meals! (And measles and mumps and whooping cough …. )


In the long, tiresome fight between people-who-believe-in-established-science and anti-vaxxers, the latest salvo to come hurtling out of Camp Ignorance has arrived: a vaccine-free daycare, right here in Ottawa. According to the National Post, Melissa Abekah’s Orléans daycare accepts only unvaccinated children. Her reason for this? She and her husband do not trust the ingredients in vaccines, and they believe that a person who receives a vaccine can transmit the disease to those around them for up to thirty days after the shot. She’s off by thirty days, but we’ve already ascertained that the Abekahs are not big on facts.

I really don’t feel like taking my battle-scarred club to a horse so long expired that it’s stiff and flyblown – but I will. If what I’m saying sounds familiar, it is. I wrote about this issue about eleven months ago:


The facts are swirling all around us, all day every day, free to all who choose to consume them. A quick trip to Dr. Google, and we are confronted with the possible encephalitis and death associated with measles, the effect of mumps on fertility and fetuses, the relentless rib-cracking pain of whooping cough, the sorrow of lives crippled and blighted by polio. The fact that these diseases were very nearly eradicated in so many countries for so many years after the advent of vaccinations speaks for itself. Combine that with the fact that these diseases are coming back to plague a new generation of children since the rise in popularity of vaccine refusal, and only one question remains: how can so many people armed with so much information continue to be so amazingly, lamentably dim?

Yet, somehow, they do. They ignore the findings of scientists and the warnings of doctors, choosing not to take simple – and, in Canada, publicly funded – precautions against their children contracting potentially damaging or deadly diseases. They talk about their right to make such a choice, ignoring the fact that their choice could have terrible consequences for their children, and other people’s children, too. And now there’s a daycare to cater to them. They are willing to take their unprotected child and put him or her in regular close contact with other unprotected children. As Ottawa Public Health’s Marie-Claude Turcotte observed, diseases will spread rapidly in such an environment.

In my opinion, vaccinating your children should not be a choice. Refusing to do so is tantamount to child endangerment, considering the frightening nature of many of the diseases addressed by vaccines. Furthermore, it does not only affect the parents or even just their children. It affects every pregnant woman, infant and immunocompromised person with whom they share a theater, restaurant, shop, bus or waiting room. It affects the small percentage of people whose own vaccinations were ineffective for whatever reason. It affects our healthcare system and those who depend on it, as we scramble for money and resources to deal with the fallout caused by the return of enemies we thought were beaten. A vaccine-free daycare is basically a petri dish providing the perfect conditions for the birth of a new epidemic, and should not be allowed to operate. There are all kinds of laws governing the conditions under which a person is allowed to provide childcare. I call on regulators to make this another one, and stop idiots like Melissa Abekah from causing another outbreak.