Rebecca Eckler is one of Canada's most talked about newspaper columnists, the author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother to Be, which has been translated into nine languages. Also the author of the bestsellers, Wiped!, Toddlers Gone Wild, and Rotten Apple, the first in a YA series. Random thoughts on life in the competitive world of modern mommyhood. Blog will be loved by trendy mothers who still feel, or often feel, that the most important word in "mommee" is ME!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Undercover Mom

I'm about to go off and spy on The Dictator at camp - for the second time.

It's very uncomfortable. For me, for the counselors, for everyone.

Every morning at camp, swim time happens between 11 and 11:30 a.m.

So I will go upstairs, where there is a viewing area to the pool below, behind a large glass window.

So, I guess it's not *really* spying. I mean, it is a viewing window. You are supposed to *view* from it.

The first time I dropped The Dictator off at camp I realized I would have to learn to turn a blind eye. The Dictator has had one-on-one attention since the day she was born.

Nanny Mimi has really been at her beck and call, since the day I brought her home from the hospital. So when I dropped her off at camp, where the ratio is about four 2-3 year-olds for every counselor, I knew this would be different.

My friend also dropped her son off at the same camp with me one day. Her son too, has had one-on-one attention from a nanny, from the day he was born.

As we watched our little darlings climb a swing set, with no one really paying attention, after we dropped them off, I grabbed her arm and said, "We have to go."

"I would never have let him climb that thing alone," she said.

"We have to turn a blind eye. Let's go before we start to cry," I answered.

To a certain extent, I do believe children need their independence and need to learn how to hang like monkeys from swing sets. If they fall, they fall. They're kids.

I needed to learn, so did Nanny Mimi, that we had to let go of The Dictator to a certain extent. Sigh.

Nanny Mimi watches The Dictator swim every single day. I think this is wrong.

Because, I know, from the last time I joined Nanny Mimi at the viewing window, that the counselors started to pay way more attention to The Dictator, once The Dictator saw us and started waving at us.

The counselors were constantly looking up at us watching them. I was pathetic. Every time one of them saw me, literally, I ducked.

I don't necessarily want The Dictator to get special attention, just because Nanny Mimi is watching her every day. Then again, why shouldn't Nanny Mimi watch her to make sure she's having fun and is, um, as safe as can possibly be.

It's her job to make sure my child is alive and also happy.

"Why aren't they giving her The Noodle to hang off of," Nanny Mimi was screaming, when I stood next to her, watching The Dictator in swim. "She likes the Noodle. She likes the Noodle. Come on Guys!!! Give her a Noodle! Why aren't they giving her a noodle."

Of course, the counselors couldn't hear her. (The Noodle is one of those long tube-like things that float in pools. Also called Pool Penises. Or maybe that's just what I call them. Anyway.)

I knew at that moment that I had the best nanny in the world, one who cared about my child as much as I did. And Nanny Mimi has one thing that I don't have. Which is, she doesn't give a crap if the counselors see her spying.

I did. And I do. I can only imagine what they think, which is probably something like, "Rowan's mommy is so annoying. Doesn't she have anything better to do than to spy?"

But, still, I will go spy today because, really, I just like watching The Dictator swim. I mean, the gal now jumps off the side of the ledge (wearing a life jacket) and she can even swim without The Noodle now. (With a life jacket.)

The point is, you can call it spying. I'll call it being a proud parent, with a side benefit of letting other people who take care of my child know that I am watching. Bahahaha.

You say tomato, I say tomato.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


How is it that little girls decide boys are bad?

In recent weeks, every time The Dictator doesn't like something, like carrots, she says it's for boys.

"I don't like carrots. Carrots are for boys!" she'll say.

Or, "I don't like popsicles. Popsicles are for boys!"

Frankly, I find it kind of funny. I mean, what can I say? "You're right! Carrots are for boys!"

The house next door to mine has been torn down and is now being built up again. The other day there were workers hammering away on the roof. I sat on my front stoop and was pointing all the action out to The Dictator.

"Look! Look at that man on the top of the house," I told her. "Are you going to climb a house one day?"

"No," she said. "Only boys climb houses."

Ok, that annoyed me.

While it was true that there were only men (Every other word out of their potty mouths was, 'Fuck that! Fuck this! Fuck you!' But that's another story...) I certainly have never told The Dictator that only boys do certain things.

In fact, I'm so aware of gender and how I don't want The Dictator to grow up thinking she can only be and do certain things because she's a girl, that I've bought her soccer balls, and foot balls, and a scooter and trucks.

There has been absolutely no talk of "only boys can climb houses." So where the hell did she get that from?

"Girls and boys can BOTH climb houses," I told her, adding, "When you're bigger."

Yes, I have dressed The Dictator entirely in pink since the day she was born. A) I like pink. B) she was bald for the longest time. In fact, if she's not wearing pink, she still often looks like a boy.

I mainly dress her in pink so I don't have to hear what an "adorable son" I have.

But where do girls learn that boys suck and where do boys learn that girls suck?

Where do they learn that only girls do certain things and only boys do certain things (the only one that I for sure have told her is that she can't pee standing up...but she still has tried this, to disastrous results.)

Then, the other day, she asked for lipstick. And here I am singing out all the time to The Dictator, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better."

I never thought it would happen in this day and age, but it has...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

If It Walks Like A Mother, and Talks Like A Mother....

Then it must be...

Duh. A mother.

I was at Starbucks the other morning, in line with The Dictator getting a coffee before dropping her off at camp, when I overheard this conversation between a mother and her three year old.

Mommy: "Don't touch that!"

Mommy: "Don't touch that!"

Mommy: "Don't touch that!"

Mommy: "Don't touch that!!!!!!!"

Ok, it really wasn't so much a "conversation" as it was one mother, also with a baby in her arms, demanding every two seconds that her three year old stop touching things.

I mean, I totally got it. First, this mother had two kids with her. Second, she hadn't had a coffee yet. Third, her three year old was touching everything. Ok, I don't get that really.

I mean, it's Starbucks for godssake, otherwise known as stroller central. Starbucks is THE place for new mothers to hang out in, and bored mothers to hang out in, and, well, let's just say there's one Starbucks in Toronto, on Avenue Rd (you know the one I mean?) which, I swear to god, men go to oogle the all the yummy mommies who hang there.

Anyway, I got that this mommy had her hands full. But I was still freaking inside. I mean, do I sound like that? DO I SOUND LIKE THAT????

I NEVER want to sound like that. Of course, I know I do. But, mostly, it's when I'm trying to get The Dictator ready for bed, which is now a 30-minute or 50-minute process.

I sound something like this:

"Put your leg in this one! NO THIS ONE! Ok, now put the other leg in. NO THE OTHER ONE. Great. Now put the first one back in. NOW GET THE OTHER LEG BACK IN. Ok, we're going to start this again. First leg please! FIRST LEG! GIVE ME A LEG. ANY LEG DEAR GOD GIVE ME A LEG!!!!!!"

In public, where people have stopped me on the street to ask if that's "The" Rowan, I prefer the bribing method. You know, "If you come in here with me, I'll give you a present," so I won't ever yell at her.

No, I don't feel bad about this, because I can buy The Dictator off by handing her a straw, or giving her a cup or napkin. The gal comes cheap. And, really, like I've always maintained, I'll pick the big battles, not the little ones.

Plus, how do you reason with a two year old? The other day I tried to explain how mommy really needed to run into the magazine store, for five seconds, to get Vanity Fair so I could read about Hilary Swank. I tried to reason with her, but, quite frankly, she doesn't really listen to reason. (She came in with me, and her "present" was a free pamphlet.)

In any case, The Dictator is usually pretty good in public. So I don't have to always tell her, "Don't' touch that! Don't touch that! Don't touch that!"

But, who knows what the hell I sound like. The only way I would know is to carry around a tape recorder.

But I'm too afraid of what I'd hear.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Divorce! Kids in Executive Class!

No, sorry, not me. My relationship is a-okay.

But me and Canada? Not so much. I'm divorcing Canada because of the outcome of Canadian Idol.

Imagine my surprise when I received a Blackberry from my Canadian Idol Judge friend that said, "Nancy Silverman has left the building."

I was still in Provence. I couldn't do a thing! I had all these thoughts like, "Oh mi god. What if she has left the building because I was in Provence and couldn't text message my 15 votes in for her."

To which I say, "I'm so sorry Nancy. I will never again go away during Canadian Idol. Ever."

Enough of Idol. I will still watch. I will root for Eva and Steffi D. But it won't be the same. Pout.

And while I'm in the role of being a spoiled brat, I'd like to share with you all the experience of my trip back from Provence. Or at least the first leg of it, from Nice to Frankfurt.

It turns out, that while I'm now a mommy myself, and so can empathize with any other parent traveling with small children, I still don't like it.

Sure, now when I see some little kids coming in my direction, I don't give them the evil eye. I do smile. I give that "Oh, aren't kids so precious?" look.

Because kids are cute. Until they are not so cute.

This is what Air Canada did to me. Pout. There I was sitting in aisle four. Well, another mommy and two of her kids, age one and three, were in aisle three. Right in front of me.

In aisle five, right behind me, was this woman's husband and their five year old. First off, what the hell is Air Canada putting an innocent bystander like me (and the poor fellow sitting beside me) in the middle of this mayhem? Pout. Pout.

Why didn't they put the whole family together?

I had kids pulling my hair from behind and kids looking at me in front and dropping their bread over the seat. Ok, for the first five minutes, I was cool with it. Then I really wasn't.

I asked the father if he'd like to change seats with me to be closer to his family and that way they wouldn't have to pass the one year old over my head. (Hint Hint. I can deal with either my hair being pulled from behind or being stared at and thrown bread at from in front, but not both at the same time!)

He very nicely said, "Thank you very much. But it's a short flight. I think we'll be ok here." (Which I think translates into, "Um, this is my free time away from my one and three year olds! I'm going to enjoy it!")

I know a lot of people who travel business class and hate when they see little ones up front.

I don't.

You know, there are a lot of very good kids out there, who will sit quietly, put on the free socks, and watch the damn video. I figure, if you pay for your seat, it's your seat. Have a toddler in there, have yourself in there. You paid for it. It's all yours.

Depending on my mood, when I travel back and forth from Calgary and Toronto, I'll sometimes book business class and sometimes economy.

Frankly, it's better with a toddler to travel economy because they can lie down on you and you somehow, which I'll admit is quite frankly stupid, feel less guilty when your child acts up.

Business class is always full of people with briefcases giving you the evil eye because, for them, flying is actually time out of the office and a time to enjoy the peace.

And it's hard not to feel bad when you, let's say, are traveling to Maui and you see a couple obviously celebrating their honeymoon and your kid is pulling their hair. I love The Dictator, but, yes, I wouldn't wish for anyone to sit behind her or in front of her, especially after someone paid $15,000 for the flight.

But, if I know the flight is during the time The Dictator will be wide awake anyway, I'll trade in my 5 billion points for business class seats. I have to use them up sometime. And, you know, that little glass of orange juice at the beginning makes it worth it. Not.

Still, I've realized the only thing worse than traveling with The Dictator is being stuck in a row in between a family, with three kids under the age of five.

Which is also why I may have to divorce Air Canada too. Again. Pout. Frankly, my relationship with Air Canada has always been rocky at best. But we always keep getting back together. It's, like, the worst relationship in the world. I swear, if Air Canada were a man, any therapist would say, "Cut your losses. Move on. Don't call him ever again."

And, yet, here I am, debating whether to pick up the phone, to book The Dictator and I tickets to Toronto. Pout.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Becky's Book Club, Blame, and Bribing...

Ok, this isn't really a book club. I'm not the type of person who can commit myself to something like that. But here are the three books that I've read in Provence that I highly recommend.

1) Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein. I suppose one would classify this as "chick lit" but a very good kind of chick lit. Loved it. Not too taxing on the brain and wanting to keep reading.

2) Love in the Present Tense, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Picked this up because author wrote Pay it Forward (which most of you would probably know from the awesome movie) I loved this book so much. Stayed up half the night reading it. In fact, will buy all of her books now.

3) Amy and Isabelle, by Elizabeth Strout. Another great book. Picked it up because it's about a mother/daughter relationship, but so much more. Amazing.

I just love when I pack three books and I love them all! It's the little things in life like that that make me happy, happy, happy. Pre-Dictator, I swear, my luggage would include, um, ten books or so.

But I do feel like my brain has turned to mush since having The Dictator. I thought three would be enough. It's not.

And, now, I'm out of books and still have a couple days left of vacation.

So I will be reading an autobiography by John Daly. He's a golfer, with a foul mouth and gambling issues. So maybe it's not really about golf (cross fingers, cross fingers.) I bought it for The Fiance. But, hey, you never know.

Now, I've been calling home to check on The Dictator, of course.

She started her first week of camp this week. Swimming camp. I was distraught, to say the least, when on her first two days, I heard she came home and refused to swim and her lunch hadn't been touched.

She loves swimming. The gal needs to eat! I didn't get it.

The Dictator is an October Baby, which means we were forced to make that decision to either keep her back or push her a bit forward. I chose to push her a bit forward. So, yes, some of the campers are a tad older than her.

And, yes, she actually can't really eat by herself yet (You have to open everything for her) and she's mostly toilet trained (but not entirely) and she can't swim on her own. (Someone has to watch her!)

So I freaked. And what does a mother who is so far away do when she hears something like this? Well, of course. I had to blame someone.

I was one second away from calling the camp, or sending a pushy e-mail saying, "What the hell is going on over there? She's not swimming and it's swim camp and she's not eating a thing. She's not even three! Someone should be HELPING HER!!!!"

If I were there, I'd have taken her in myself and had a little talking to the counselors. In a very nice, charming, flash my pearly whites way. (Then I would have spied on them!)

Yes, I will be VERY pushy. Especially when it comes to my child!

And, also, I hate to say this but we did buy the school a bus (or part of a bus, when they called telling me their bus for the school broke down and would I mind donating money.) I swear, I was so mad. I rather buy a couple of good counselors.

Sure, they'll call to ask me to donate for a bus, but when it comes to making sure my child is having fun at camp, where are they?

But, on her third day, my mother reported to me that The Dictator did swim and ate a couple Fruit Loops for lunch.

We had to send her to camp wearing her bathing suit (My suggestion, thank you very much...) and had my mother speak to counselors explaining she doesn't know how to open things by herself.

I didn't call or e-mail. I held back.

I learned that The Dictator does fancy one of the younger "counselors in training," who is 13, and will go swimming with her.

Then, after my initial, PHEW, I thought, "OK, THAT counselor in training will be getting a nice gift certificate to Lululemon, because she is taking care of my child!"

So, yes, maybe there does need to be some bribing involved. I'm not sure. But you can bet your bum that I will be getting that counselor in training the gift certificate.

And, also, when I get back, I will be spying when she goes to art camp. I know. But, have you ever spied on your kids from behind a tree?

This parenting thing, I swear, has so many layers. It's so political, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How do you say LOSER in French?

Help...yet again.

So I've been in Provence for three days now. The Fiance booked me a ticket that I could continue to Italy, with him, or if I decided that I miss The Dictator too much in Provence, I could come back to Canada and not go to Italy and he would go on without me.

I knew the minute I left my Canadian door that I would not be going to Italy. Which sucks, because I've never been. Anyway..

I love Provence. I love the food, the heat, the beautiful countryside. I am thinking about building a place here. (Or maybe I'm thinking about how cool it would be to run into Johnny Depp...)

I missed The Dictator as soon as we were being driven to the airport. I didn't want to break it to The Fiance that, as soon as we walked into our beautiful hotel, I wanted him to call our travel agent and make sure I get back on a flight to Canada on Sunday.

Am I a loser or what? How do you say LOSER in French? I mean, am I a LOSER for missing her so much?

I used to love traveling. Seriously. I could go away for months and be fine with it. I rarely got homesick. In fact, I knew The Fiance was the one for me, because he's the only person I could stand to be with (this was pre-Dictator) for more than 24 hours, without the urge to run out the door and never come back.

Though it seems like I confess my every sin, I'm actually a very private person. I do not like people knowing where I am (in fact, ahem, at my old job at the old place I worked at, I'd actually be far, far away without telling any of my editors where I was...Thank god for technology! I'd save up all my interviews, hop on a plane, and file from...well, a lot of different places.)

Anyway, I'm at the point in my life, where I still have a boss or too, but can now be an honest to goodness full time book writer, and can go where I want, when I want. And I've never wanted to be home so bad. Actually, I've never wanted to be with The Dictator so bad.

The only place I want to be right now is where The Dictator is.

It's the time difference thing. I can't deal with it. Every morning I wake up here, and wait until 4 p.m., to call The Dictator at 8 a.m. her time. And then I wait for a call from her at 1 a.m. this time, waiting up for her call.

I e-mailed with a male friend, who doesn't have children, who wrote to me that The Fiance would be pissed with me because I didn't want to go to Italy with him, and wanted to come home early to be with The Dictator.

I wrote back, after heading to Cannes, that it was a "mommy thing" and he couldn't understand. Even The Fiance doesn't feel the same type of missing I feel.

Though it is beautiful here, and I'm trying to relax. I can't. I have a knot in my stomach at all times. "Is The Dictator enjoying camp?" "Are the counselors making sure she eats?" "Is she wearing suntan lotion?" "Is she happy?"

I literally have thoughts like, "Well, Italy will always be there, but The Dictator will only be 2 years, 10 months, and 7 days just once!"

So, yes, I'm coming home after Provence. I've decided that there will be no more vacations, longer than 7 days, without The Dictator.

I'm not that person anymore.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Blog, Brag, Gush, Barf

Like the urge to protect your child which is inherent, there's also an inherent urge as a mother to brag.

Bragging about your child is a tricky business.

When you brag about your child to another mother, you get into that competitive-parenting realm.

And, yes, even when my mommy friends brag about their children, one of my instincts is to start bragging about The Dictator.

I mean, hey, you're telling me your child is in twelve classes and can swim under water at age 4 months, so I'm going to tell you that The Dictator could sing Coldplay songs by the time she was two (Ok, this is a blatant lie.)

But if you brag too much about your child to other mothers, you do get judged as being a competitive parent.

And I don't want to be that kind of mother. Barf.

And, then, when you brag about your child to one of your single, non-mother friends, you can't help but wonder, "Do they care? Am I boring them? How much is too much information to share about your child? Should I stop?"

Because you don't want to be the kind of mother who bores your friends with constant child brag. You brag too much to your single friends and you get judged as being a boring mother who cares about nothing else but your offspring. Barf.

And, then, if you brag to mothers who have older children than yours, you just can't help but wonder if they think that you think that you're the first person in the world to have had a child. Which, of course, you kind of do.

You can't win. Ever.

So here's what I would love you to do. In fact, I'm begging you. Please brag to me about your child(ren.) Yes, that's right. I'm asking you to go all out and gush and brag and gush some more.

And, guess what? I will not judge. I will not think that you are bragging about how you think your child is a genius, nor will I judge you for only talking about your child. I will not think you are competing with me, nor will you bore me. I won't barf. I promise.

Blog Brag to your heart's content. Because...

Well, I'm about too.

That's right. I'm in the mood to gush and brag about The Dictator and what better way than to blog brag. (It's my blog and I can brag if I want to, brag if I want to, brag if I want to...)

First, The Dictator is the most adorable little girl in the entire world. I love her so much that it hurts. In fact, I love her more and more every day and each and every day she gets cuter and cuter. I lover her bum, I love her arms, I love her eyes. I love her cheeks. I love every inch of her.

Have I told you how smart she is? She gets things, my child. She does. I only have to explain things to her once. And she gets it.

And did I mention how creative and imaginative she is?

I swear, the kid makes up stories that are so brilliant. Just yesterday, she made up a story about a cat named Carlos and a horse named Midnight, who climbed up a tree. And The Dictator pulled a pretend ladder from her pocket to rescue them.

And she's funny. I mean, she loves to make jokes that crack me up.

And she's independent. She keeps telling me how much she wants to go to school. So I just know she's going to be smart, on top of being the cutest girl in the world, too.

I love her, love her, love her, love her.

Wow...That felt so good.

Now that you've probably barfed (and I don't care!) it's your turn. Brag away.

No judgment.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nancy Silverman -Who Dat???

One of the reasons I love being a writer and journalist is not because of the perks or because I get to meet celebrities.

Sure, I get sent a ton of stuff (which I usually always give away to Nanny Mimi. I swear, I'm on this mailing list for a makeup company and I get sent 12 new bottles of nail polish every month!) and I can brag about meeting Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Lopez or an Olson Twin. (Actually, I met both twins. Aren't I so cool?)

I like writing because I like finding interesting people and helping them out. I do. Really. I love finding people who came up with an idea for a business and worked hard at that business and now are offering interesting products.

Last week, in my Saturday Globe and Mail Column, I wrote about these two women who founded a t-shirt company, out of Vancouver. Who knew about them? Well, Maddox's mommy, Angelina had (She bought some for Maddox.) But no one in Canada had written about them before.

Once, I wrote a piece about a cool company in New York, run by one woman, who did cute greeting cards. No one in Canada had heard about her before. She wrote to tell me how many Canadians ordered stuff from her after my story came out.

PR people e-mail dozens and dozens of story ideas for their clients. But my heart does lie in the individual business people trying to get some press, so people know about them, and they can make a success out of their businesses. Especially Canadians.

Thanks for all the free stuff BIG MAKE UP COMPANY, but you don't need any press. I love your stuff, don't get me wrong. But I like finding and helping the little people out.

By the end of my old job at my old paper I was literally saying, "I'll only do the story if no one else has done it before" to PR companies. That's because I'm also super competitive and I hate repeating stories that other papers have already done.

I'm so American in my competitiveness. I swear, when I read something in a Canadian paper that I know I read...just...last...week in The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, I throw down my paper in disgust. Why the heck are we always following America?

So how competitive am I? Well, let's just say when I hear about a story that is going to come out in an American paper, I always tell my Canadian editors, so I can do it first. I know, sad. But why shouldn't I want to beat the NY Times? I do want to beat The Times.

Plus, are we not good enough to find our own stories? Canada has a ton of interesting stories and people who need a little bit of help. Press helps their businesses out, so why not?

Anyway, at this point you're probably asking, What's up with Nancy Silverman?

Nancy Silverman is a competitor on Canadian Idol. I love her. I want her to go very very far in the competition. So I just wanted you to hear it here first. Of course, I didn't "find" her. However, I want to give her some sort of press. Nancy Silverman. Nancy Silverman. Remember the name.

Because I give her "props." Which is actually the real reason I love watching Canadian Idol. I get to use the word "props."