Coffee Shop Confessions – Separation Anxiety Isn’t Just A Childhood Affliction

City Mama, County Mama: Coffee Shop Confessions – Separation Anxiety Isn’t Just A Childhood Affliction (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

I’m sitting at a big wooden table, working on my laptop in the middle of Miss Lily’s Café in Picton. My little boy is at his fourth day of preschool, hopefully playing with his best friends, this morning’s tear-stained cheeks, dried, pleas to stay home, forgotten. I’m sipping a London Fog latte and am trying to silence my brain so I can enjoy it and lose myself in the total coffee shop-ness of the moment.

Checkered floors, mismatched chairs, pretty rustic products lined up on shelves. Friends chatting to each other at little bistro tables, people reading or scrolling, passing time in cozy club chairs—and then there’s me, sitting here like a normal person, typing away.

It all feels so three years ago.

You know that shocking moment when you catch yourself inside a vignette of your pre-mom self and you’re almost floored that life still exists just as you left it? Well that’s what’s happening right now. Coffee culture had been perfectly preserved in its cliché little ritual while I checked out to birth and begin to rear a tiny human for a few years. And then today, I slipped back into it for a few hours while my little boy, who came out of my body and then held tightly onto my hand for the subsequent thirty-six or so months, did his own thing.

When you’re a first time mom, the concept of preschool is hard to get your head around. I hear it’s hard the second and third time round too. I mean we obviously get the idea—kid goes to school, mom leaves and does things without kid, mom picks up kid—but the actual reality of it is almost ungraspable until you find yourself in a coffee shop, solo, sipping a hot drink moments after it was poured, focusing entirely on one task. Maybe that’s why I was here. Alone, but surrounded by people who didn’t and wouldn’t need anything from me at all.

It didn’t happen immediately. After the first few drop-offs I left the school bewildered, craning my neck to watch the road behind me, and then the sidewalks as I got further away. I expected that at any second my distraught little adventurer would break through the heavy school doors and run into town to find me. I imagined in detail a thousand terrifying scenarios and had to talk myself off of numerous ledges of anxiety. I spent too long on his first day standing in the hallway outside the classroom, listening for sounds of distress (a passing teacher guessed alound that I might be on a time-out) before it became evident to me that separation anxiety isn’t just a childhood affliction—I wanted alone time, but apparently not at the expense of being without my child.

But our kids have to learn. And we have to learn. If we hold each other too close, for too long, neither of us are doing our jobs of growing up. Our darling babies slowly become whole and separate. They go on to have healthy, distinct, and real relationships with people who aren’t their mothers, while we rediscover who we once were through the lens of who we’ve become. We reclaim the quiet buzz of life, tapping away at keyboards in coffee shops, contemplating other people’s lives as they come and go. We watch twenty-somethings order tea and seventy-somethings get lattes – all of them once someone’s precious three-year old, carving out their first little space in the world.

Crazy.


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

 

City Mama, County Mama: Today We’re Going To Talk About Mommy Brain.. Wait, What Were We Talking About Again? (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

A few days ago, I was in the middle of an awesome conversation with another mama about whether shooting stars are in fact stars that have died or bits of meteorite, streaking across the sky—when my charged up threenager broke into a full-out sprint across the grass. He was running forward and just staring backwards at me the whole time, never noticing there was a humongous boulder coming up a few feet ahead of him. Naturally, I freaked out and ran hysterically after him—which just made him squeal with laughter and put on some speed. The collision was imminent and when it happened my stomach exploded with sadness, there were a lot of tears and some minor scrapes, but no lasting damage.

“So, what were we talking about again?” I asked her when everything was finally resolved for the minute.

“Ummm….” She replied absently, her eyes glazing over while she brushed a black spot off her son’s ankle. It wasn’t a tick, but we were both mentally in other places by that time.

*****

Mommy brain isn’t ok with me. I used to be pretty into thinking in the pre-baby days. I loved how I could have a conversation with basically anyone and there would be great banter, input from both sides, some witty punctuation, and ultimately, a resolution that let us move on to the next topic, satisfied that we’d really talked and heard each other.

I can’t remember the last conversation like that. Now, I end up glossing over things that people say to me that really really required a response. The other day, I was walking down the street with a relatively new mommy friend and our kids, when she told me that her little girl had recently darted into the road with a car coming and how she’d screamed to her, but her child just kept running…and instead of hearing my friend and acknowledging her fear and the gravity of the experience, I made some trivial comment about how moms always envision these horrible things happening to our kids. I couldn’t really listen to what she was telling me because I was totally distracted by my own child’s stubborn unwillingness to hold my hand near this busy street. Later that night (after baby bedtime) her story suddenly jumped forward in my mind and I was both devastated about how scary that must have been for her and mortified at my reaction. I mean, how do we cultivate meaningful friendships when we can’t focus for long enough or absorb information deeply enough to be there for each other? I keep telling myself that I want to be a better person—someone who engages more meaningfully and is more present with others, but I’ve been notably absent in the most important moments. Something wasn’t right.

Being me, I dwelled pretty heavily on this for a while. How long had I been missing people’s cues for an emotional response? Were my mom friends constantly left hanging? Were all of my new relationships shallow and unfulfilling? What about my old ones? Was I a really bad, self-absorbed friend despite my best intentions?

Here’s what I realized:

  1. All moms have a primary focus and it’s not each other, it’s our kids. We have a biological imperative to compartmentalize our brains so that the wellbeing of our offspring takes up most of the space.
  2. All moms intuitively understand that.
  3. Other moms have probably done this to me and I’d never noticed because I was too distracted with my own business to feel let down or insulted.
  4. It’s possible that the other moms were too distracted to notice too.
  5. While our ability to think through concepts, finish conversations, and dedicate ourselves to cultivating relationships with others is definitely pretty impaired in the early years of motherhood (and maybe beyond, I wouldn’t know), we also forge deep bonds through the very act of parallel mothering. We instinctively learn from each other by observing the way we each care for our children and feel supported through our physical proximity to other parents going through the same things in the same place at the same time.

So maybe we didn’t manage to finish discussing our theory about galactic inaccuracies, but we laughed together, panicked together, exchanged knowing looks, and breathed sighs of relief together. And maybe I missed the moment to be there for my friend or maybe post-baby relationships have a different cadence than the ones we’re used to and I’ll get another chance.

Maybe our brains are just one of the bazillion things that get turned on their heads with the onset of parenthood and maybe—even when we say all the wrong things—the nice and caring things we’ve done will carry us through and our friends will know that the love is there.


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

City Mama, County Mama: This Is 40. Wait, What? (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

So, I’m getting close to a milestone year and I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s weird—getting older has never bothered me before, but for some reason this one kind of gets stuck in my throat.

40 means a lot of big deal things to me, I guess. It means that the decision to have one baby is basically real and final. It means that the extra ffhmmmty pounds, that I’ve been steadily gaining over the past two years, is less susceptible to budging in the other direction. It means the time I spent letting that beautiful life-giving sun shine down on me is paying off in wrinkles and freckles. And, let’s just say it: it means that by many accounts (and some simple genetic math,) my time on this awesome earth is basically half over. And I’m way more exhausted today than I was for that first chunk.

I know it sounds Debbie Downerist. I’m the type of person who wildly over-happifies the way I look at the world for months on end and then suddenly the cup is empty for a little while. And you’ve caught me here today, two months before this mega milestone, and I’m kind of freaking out.

So, let’s talk it out together. What’s so scary? What do I want from this new decade? My 30s were awesome and iconic in the “life fulfillment” department: I worked in my dream job, bought my first home, got married, and had a baby. Then this year, I moved into my forever home and semi-retired to the country. It feels like I’ve run the full gamut of life already and now I’m a bit deflated. What’s left to do? Yes, I’ve hit that checklist, but I haven’t yet managed to make my mark. “Am I too old now to make a mark?” she whispers.

Suddenly, as I write this, I feel hopeful and optimistic. The universe has delivered a little piece of Tom Petty lyric to my ear. The future is wide open. I tell that to my baby when I’m prepping him for life. The future is wide open. It doesn’t matter if you’re 3 or 83. If you’re alive, the future is wide open.

I will watch my child grow up and see the world through his eyes as if for the first time. I will plant things in the garden and watch them grow under that same beautiful life-giving sun. I will learn about living slowly and making plans I intend to keep. I will eat whole foods mindfully and know that my body is nourished and healthy—and I will drink wine made by people I know and adore. I will learn to be totally present with my family and friends. I will invest myself in my community and help shape the world around me. I will compose a life that is unplugged and tuned in, generous and self-aware, introspective and speculative, but most of all, warm, soft, sparkly and spilling over with love.

The 40s will be about going deep. Feeling the cool soil on my fingertips and knowing that the boundaries of my world are still infinite.


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

City Mama, County Mama: Zen & The Art of Toddler Maintenance (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

As my little man’s big Oh-Three approaches, I wonder to myself if there’s really any chance that those very real ‘terrible twos’ could possibly be nearing their end.

Not that he was terrible—if I look critically at the last year, I can see a gorgeous, spirited little creature, trying to become himself and find his voice in the midst of mommy and daddy’s concrete world filled with inexplicable, inflexible rules. His behaviour made perfect sense, but it still wasn’t easy for us. When he finally fell asleep at night, we’d spend hours trying to rationalize what had happened that day and what it meant about how we would deal with tomorrow.

“Well, he ate lunch 10 minutes later than normal…” my husband explained.

“And he had hummus,” I interrupted, “you know, I think he might be allergic to chickpeas.”

“Oh, and he also hasn’t had a poo today” he added, and I nodded vigorously.

“Aaand he got that new fire truck toy we didn’t let him take to bed.”

So, we were in agreement: a late lunch, hummus, no poos, and a new toy conspired to give our 2.5 year-old that huge hit of strength that allowed him to bust out of his crib tonight, for the first time.

Every day of his second year of life had been like this though. Our child, a blur of pure physical energy, muscles straining to find the infinite ceiling of their potential – the two of us struggling to intellectualize his every act. 

Why was he crying when we gave him what he asked for? Why didn’t he want to eat the thing that was his favourite meal yesterday? Why was he a perfect sleeper forever and now falls apart when we leave the room? 

And then it hit me. Kids aren’t jobs. They aren’t schedules. They aren’t math or physics or finite equations. They’re little people, humans, given to volatility and unpredictable emotion. And they’re just learning to be humans, so their reactions aren’t seated in logic or based on precedent. To top it off, each of their personalities is entirely unique and wildly evolving—so to try to fit them into any realm of grown up reasoning is to fail before we’ve even begun.

So, as the eve of our graduation from this mini-era grows closer, I offer other parents the only resolution I can find to the tried and true ‘Terrible Twos’: Be Zen. Be open to the capricious universe. Be accepting of the tides. Be a firm and yielding pressure between the land and the sea. Be the permeable shield. Be the unconditional retreat. Be overflowing with love. And be completely vulnerable to the magic that is your child’s exuberant march towards his own being.


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

www.lifeaulait.com

City Mama, County Mama: D.I.Y.ing My Super Boring Hallway (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

A few nights ago, Catherine (the MC Midtown director), messaged me to say she read and loved a post I wrote, recently published on another blog. “You write like a musician”, she wrote and I swooned at the beautiful compliment.

I have been in the writing and editing biz forever. I’ve been published more times than I can count and have directed dozens of magazines onto newsstands across the country. I’ve managed designers on countless projects, designed loads of logos since my son was born three years ago, and still, every time a new project hits my desk, I feel like I’m faking it.

A friend of mine just posted in her incredible blog about ‘imposter syndrome’—a term that describes high-achieving individuals who are marked by a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’ High-achieving or not, talented or a hack, successful or otherwise—every time I get a compliment on something I’ve worked hard on for a client or myself, it means the world to me. It’s a reminder that I’m pretty good at what I do, and that I’m helping other people succeed at what they do.

On that note, I’ve been working on a project over the past few weeks for the most demanding client on my roster: me. I can be a real hardass boss. I’m relentless in the pursuit of perfection and when it comes to projects involving home design and decor, my assistant (aka. husband) will attest to the fact that I’m the total, absolute worst.

Putting up paintings is the most frustrating, because I’m never 100% certain of what I want until I see it in reality—and sometimes I need to see it a few times before I’m really really sure. This means a lot of extra nail holes, a lot of rethinks, and a seriously pissed off drill-handling partner. So when I decided to reinvent my boring hallway, I wanted to make sure I could do a lot of it totally solo and compose the really annoying parts using design and layout programs on my computer, rather than in real time on the wall.

This DIY project was composed of three main parts.

Step 1: Find a kickass mirror that would fit between two totally awkwardly placed light sconces on a reasonably large, white, floating wall.

Step 2: Source or build a cool, but timeless console table or bench to serve as a furniture feature below the mirror

Step 3: Figure out how to fill the rest of the empty wall space without rewiring the electrics…if even possible.

The thing is, each of these steps has to take maximum 20 minutes. That’s the absolute longest I can spend on a task and do it well (which is why I break everything up into baby steps.)

1. Luckily, I had a mirror from the old house that fit perfectly. It was round with an ornate frame so not a lot of real estate in which to see oneself, but it was pointed out to me that there are a lot of mirrors in our house and as a higher traffic area, it wasn’t the primary place one would perch to gussy up. Okay. Fine. I can live with that.
Mirror, check.

2. My dad suggested we try putting this raw aluminum outdoor bench beneath the mirror and everyone pooh-poohed it. I was sure the bench would be too deep, too rough, too outdoorsy, but to placate him, I said we’d try it. It was stunning. After some humble mumbled apologies, I bought some spray paint with a primer and seal coat in one (20 minutes, remember?) in a gorgeous muted gold colour and waited for a sunny day with no bugs. Two coats (and cans) later and I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked. This was a total win.
Furniture feature, check.

Things were starting to look about 1000% better, but I still needed to figure out how to fill the rest of the space in a way that was attractive, but not cluttered, balanced, but not old-fashioned, and could work around those annoying light fixtures.

I took a few days to reflect on some spaces that I loved, and I remembered the wall at the Vic Café in Picton. Sonya, the owner, had created a combination of wall-hung plates and circular geometric designs that had a gorgeous effect.

3. I’d found my inspiration: a gallery design around the mirror and fixtures using various sizes, shapes and designs of wall-mounted plates. I went for a blue and white base palette and got to work. I already owned a set of vintage country-club-meets-fishing-lodge style plates (bought a decade ago for no purpose other than to gather dust in a cupboard until they resurfaced in the move.) The other pieces came from random places (a keepsake from Italy, a collectable from the family archives, etc.) and came together, bit by bit.

First I took quick photos of each of the plates, then shot them beside another plate for size reference. I measured the biggest one against the mirror and figured I was in a good place to estimate the rest. Cropping the photos and placing into a background of the bench and mirror, I resized everything to approximate scale and shifted until I was happy and everything was composed and balanced.

Then I printed out the final pic and stood with my husband, drill in hand, directing him plate by plate. In reality, I realized that “approximate scale” isn’t the best way to do things – the sizes were noticeably off. The plates were quite a bit smaller and some shifting was required. The design seemed to require an extra plate to maintain the composition, but I wasn’t sure. Again, real life is harder for me.

After some juggling, I decided to live with it for a few weeks to feel it out.

Do you guys like it? What would you change? I love to get feedback. After all, it’s not just compliments that make me happy, collaboration is what helps me grow—and ultimately, become much better at what I do!


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

www.lifeaulait.com

City Mama, County Mama: Welcome To The Motherhood, Baby! (Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

Well April has only just rolled into May and I’m already starting to feel worry pangs about summer being over. When you move to a place that people visit for sun and wine, your weekends get booked up fast with friends who want to ‘drop by’.

It’s awesome, of course, to live in paradise every day and still get to see the people you love, but it’s also a bit stressful to have the precious sunny season scheduled to the minute before it’s even begun. But spring is the catalyst for birth and rebirth, and I plan to enjoy the hell out of it, so along with a lot of cool things on my plate these days, I’m excited to announce that this is my first post for City Mama, County Mama, a new biweekly column I’ll be writing for Midtown Mommy Connections.

It seems so totally appropriate, as I start a brand new life in Prince Edward County, to share my experiences with the community that had a huge impact on me nearly three years ago, when I began my new life as a first time mom.

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When I got to The County, I knew a handful of people. I’d met them a few years before when I was very pregnant and writing a story for a Toronto-based magazine—a travel piece highlighting the amazing wine, food, and coolness of PEC. The people I met here were brilliant: a winemaker, an innkeeper, a chef, and a handful of others who were all amazing, but none of them were first time parents with little kids. And as much as these guys helped us with the who’s who and what’s what of our new home, once we’d moved in and found a second to breathe, I realized that I had zero mommy networks.

A few hundred years ago when I was in university, I didn’t have TV for about a year. Quickly, I realized that the biggest problem with that was that without watching any commercials, I didn’t actually know what to buy when I went grocery shopping. I couldn’t tell what was “meant” for me. It was a weird and memorable thing, and when I moved here I realized I was having a similar experience. I’d been immersed in the Toronto mom groups for so long and relied on them for absolutely everything. In this new land I didn’t know where to get a baby thermometer to replace the one that was lost in the move. I didn’t know who to ask about swimming lessons or if there was a good park and a bad park in the same neighbourhood. Where would my toddler and I go in the mornings if we wanted to play with other kids? Where were the secret beaches, the farm fresh eggs, and micro-greens? And where, for the love of all things holy, could I buy, sell, and trade kids’ clothes and toys!?

I searched for local Facebook groups with every keyword I could imagine and nothing kid-related came up. So, I did what all resourceful moms do in the face of adversity: I started my own community. I obviously found a good niche, because within two days there were a few hundred parents (and some grandparents) in my little group and they were all excited to be there and share knowledge with each other. Quickly, I got answers to all of my burning questions, found out where the Ontario early years playgroups were, and what other classes were on the table. The moms (and dads) were awesome, friendly, funny, supportive, and smart. The kids were the products of these awesome parents and my kid was excited to see his friends every morning. For the second time since becoming a mom, I felt the isolation and anxiety run off me—I’d found my people again.

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I remember sitting in my first Mommy Connections class at Gymboree, looking around at everyone’s face and wondering if they were going through anything like I was. Could that little girl with the flower headband sleep without being rocked all night in someone’s arms too? Did the mother with the wide eyes and freckles also feel totally out of control every time she left the house with her tantrum-prone, teething toddler? Were all of these women emotionally overwhelmed about how obsessively they loved their new little human? It was here, talking to these other moms, that I realized that we all have days where we can barely cope and days when our hearts explode with joy. The exact specifics of our situations may be different, but by loving and supporting the mama clan, we would always get love and support in return.

And now, with a whole new set of questions, doubts and joys, I know that there’s at least one universal truth: Whether you live in the heart of the 6ix with your little babe or on a pretty little island two-or-so hours east of it—there’s always a group of moms in your corner.


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

www.lifeaulait.com

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