A Person Who Has Some Trouble Being a Parent

I cheated on a test called a PSI earlier this year. It was my first time cheating on a test, as I was always an honest student in school and proudly flunked every math class as a result.

I had never heard of PSI before, or rather I had only heard of it as PSI the scientific exploration of psychic phenomena and yes I would probably pass a test in that, it has been a hobby of mine for the last few years. To my dismay the questions did not entail details of what happened in last week’s episode of “The Ghost Inside My Child,” or “The Haunting of that guy from CHIPS.” … and it was multiple choice, something about multiple choice fills me with anxiety… but let me explain how I came to have to take a standardized test at age 37 while thinking I was enjoying a twenty year hiatus between the horror of taking standardized tests and the anxiety of coaching my child through them. I was always one of those students that was much much smarter than her test scores (no one accuses me of modesty) but that’s not very remarkable is it? It’s far more interesting to meet someone who fails in school but scores perfectly on the math SAT. The exams are rigged, that’s my theory. Multiple Choice was invented by men to befuddle women so it came to no surprise to me that the PSI test I was subjected to was written by a man, a man named: Richard R. Abidin.

In January the Department of Child Services mailed me a pamphlet asking if I wanted a free assessment of my child to assess her two year old development progress. Of course I will go for anything that is free, so I filled it out and said: Yes please, I am unemployed so my schedule is open. At some point later in January a nice woman named Edwina (she even has a name from the 12th century) came to visit my daughter one afternoon to “assess her development.” I was worried that Eva would not accept Edwina into her lair at age two for Madame Eva takes some time to warm up to strangers especially when they are in her space. At the moment she is even jealous of the dogs, and says to me “You are not Piggy’s mommy, You are not Lum Lum’s Mommy, You are only Eva’s Mommy.” She freaks out if they come near her when she is eating or if they try and come into her room or the bathroom while she is on the throne. It’s called Sibling rivalry. If Piccolo tries to sit on my lap, she bears her teeth at him and stares him down in a declaration of war until he gives up and returns to his pillow. It made me wonder when the fangs would come out with Edwina.

Eva was suspicious and obviously concerned that Edwina might be that monstrous thing called a babysitter. I tried to distract everyone,

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

Eva stared at Edwina and the enormous blue suitcase that accompanied her. I could tell Eva was wondering what the hell was in it, and I was having the same thoughts, because when she was assessed at eight months old they only brought a few blocks and stacking toys. I wondered if they made it that big, big enough to fit a two year old if they felt her surroundings were “unfit,” and needed to smuggle her out of the neighborhood. I had spent the two hours before Edwina came scrubbing Eva’s play area, which probably had not been cleaned since it was erected. Nothing was giving me away except for the unmistakable odor of cleaning fluid. Pine- Sol fresh. I wasn’t really trying to hide anything other than cockroach droppings and I didn’t put those there on purpose. I was trying to be a good mom even if I was a few cockroach droppings shy of perfect.

Edwina’s first words after, “Earl Grey,” were, “My goodness she is small for her age.”

I winced wondering how much Eva understands of that sentence, as I am sure she will hear it over and over throughout her life until she is my age and starts growing in other directions, out and down and soon no one would be able to call her small anymore even though she never broke five feet in height.

“Don’t tell her that, she calls herself little.“ I say.

Eva says nothing but stares at Edwina’s clipboard with fascination and mistrust. Halfway through our tea cups I decide to interject.

“Shall we all go down into the play area?”

The three of us march downstairs, Eva’s head swivels around careful never to loose sight of Edwina but careful not to get too near. Edwina follows my lead and does not try too hard with Eva as not to blow her chances.

The three of us sit down in the play area, Eva just keeps staring at Edwina’s suitcase like she was waiting for the big reveal. Edwina slowly unzips it and very quietly she pulls out a toy and places it on the floor between Eva and herself. Eva’s eyes light up, and Edwina pulls several other toys out of the bag. Eva looked at me with excitement and perplexion as if to say,

“You lied mommy, Santa Claus isn’t an old fat man in the red suit at the mall in Boston with ketchup on his beard, Santa Claus is a beautiful woman named Edwina.”

Eva snuggled in next to Edwina like she had found her long lost mother, and at the same time theorizing in her tiny mind that I had kidnapped her from the maternity ward. As soon as the toys came out, Eva had one foot in the big blue suitcase and was hoping to be signed on as Edwina’s little helper or a reindeer if the position of chief elf wasn’t possible. They got along like a house on fire. I was surprised, maybe I was a little jealous. Edwina was one of those people, with an enchanting way about her. When you see them with children you know that was what they were born to do. Poor Eva she didn’t get one of those as a mother, but now she has one as her own special social worker / Santa Claus at least for the next hour.

I was hovering over them; I admit it. I was wondering if Eva would thread the needle just right, or pick up the right colored ball, and when and how and for what I would get points deducted from my placement in the institution of motherhood. Edwina noticed me hovering, she returned to her suitcase and I was sure she was reaching in for tranquilizers but instead she pulled out a folder of paperwork.

“While I am testing her I need you to fill out some paperwork.”

“Okay “ I said, figuring parents did not belong in Santa’s workshop.

Edwina handed me a pencil and pointed to the opposite end of my dining room table. I obeyed and flipped open the booklet.


“Don’t worry it is multiple choice.” Edwina says from across the room.

“Okay.” I say with anxiety looking at the pencil.

“Now Eva, mommy has to do some homework and you have to play with Edwina”

“No!” Says Eva, “ I want to get naked.”

I drop my pencil and return to the play area, Eva was feeling too at home in Edwina’s presence, and because she was only two had no idea she was actually being examined and that her behavior was impacting on our standardized test score. I hoped there wasn’t a time limit.

Eva tries to take off her shirt and it gets stuck on her head and she starts to panic. I grab the shirt and whip it off. Then she bends over and starts taking her pants down, bending over so that Edwina gets a peek at her bum. I panic and pull them back up.

“No Eva, its not Naked time.” She starts to whine and scream.

“I want to be naked.” I look at Edwina trying to see if she is shocked and try and determine if I should take a stance or give in. Edwina didn’t seem to mind so I gave in, and let her take her development test in the nude.

“I am naked” Eva says with a smile.

“Play nicely with Edwina.” I say turning my attention to the test. To my surprise, naked Eva sits down crossed legged and with quiet concentration plays with Edwina like the perfect child wearing an imaginary tunic from 1805.

Meanwhile, I look down, and instantly suspicious of this PSI test I roll up the sleeve of my left hand and like a grade school cheat I scratch the website and address at the bottom of the test sheet onto my forearm to look up later. After answering the first few questions I look to see how many sheets this thing was, it was going to take me forever- in actuality about an hour, about the same time Edwina needed to test Eva without interruption from an interfering parent.

It came with directions:

“In answering the following questions, please think about the child you are most concerned about.”

And it continued.

“The questions on the following pages ask you to mark an answer which best describes your feelings. While you may not find an answer, which exactly states your feelings, please mark the answer, which comes closest to describing how you feel. YOUR FIRST REACTION TO EACH QUESTION SHOULD BE YOUR ANSWER.”

“What is my first reaction: F this test.” I start to write that down then realize I am not actually answering a question so I read on.

The first question is: When my child wants something, my child usually keeps trying to get it.

My answer “ Strongly Agree”

My child is so active that is exhausts me?

My answer “Strongly Agree.” And then I scratch in the margin, “especially after a few cocktails.”

My child appears disorganized and is easily distracted?

“Strongly agree,” “ but that might be my fault not hers.” I scroll in the margin.

My child squirms and kicks a great deal when being dressed or bathed.

“Strongly agree.”

“She prefers to be naked but will wear shoes but we argue about that: she likes her high heels and I try and make her wear her red sparkly Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz shoes every day and she hates bathing, she can’t get her hair wet unless its Wednesday.”

My child rarely does things for me that make me feel good.

“Strongly Agree. “ I have visions of when she ran around the grocery store piercing plastic packages with her uncut fingernails and knocking things off shelves then crying and saying Mommy hurt her. I gave the cashier my best Derelict Mom fake smile.

Most times I feel that my child likes me and wants to be close to me.

“Strongly disagree.“ I remember last night at 2am when she slapped me in the face and screamed for her daddy, her gigi, her hamma, her nanna, her pops, the man on the street corner, anyone but MOMMY.

When I do things for my child I get the feeling that my efforts are not appreciated very much.

“Strongly agree. Last week I made her Sheppard’s pie she threw it on the ground and then screamed when Piccolo ate it.“

My child seems to cry or fuss more often than most children.

“Strongly agree. “

I feel that my child is very moody and easily upset.

“Strongly agree. She is just like her father, it’s genetic.”

My child does a few things, which bother me a great deal.

“Strongly agree”, and I begin my list: Tantrums, she likes Daddy more than me, she is jealous of the dogs, she never wants me to play with her.

When my child came home from the hospital I had doubtful feelings about my ability to handle being a parent.

“Strongly agree. When I got home from the hospital I was hoping I would wake up from a dream. Go away bad dream! “

My child turned out to be more of a problem than I had expected.

“Strongly agree. It started with the colic.”

The probing personal questions were making me feel like Harold in the movie Harold and Maude when his mother makes him sign up for a dating agency and he has to fill out a questionnaire. See this clip on YouTube. One of the best movies ever made in Hollywood. Not only can I relate to Harold, but I bet my mother had a hat like that in the seventies.

I was at the end of the first page of the test when I looked down at the copyright symbol at the bottom of the first page and noticed in small print © PSI, Parental Stress Index.

“Parental Stress Index”

This test was testing my development not Eva’s somehow I knew this had to all be a ruse. I was being tricked into being honest again. I looked down at my test; I was most certainly flunking. I looked at the pencil Edwina gave me, — it was one of those ones WITHOUT an eraser. I took a deep meditative breath like they teach you in pregnancy yoga and tried to figure out my options.


“Yes? “She says from the playpen.

“I am about half way through, do you mind I will excuse myself to use the bathroom, but Eva seems to be fine with you.”

“Of course,” Edwina replied.

I waited a few minutes, then as quietly as I could I slipped out of the room without Eva noticing, closing the door behind me. I ran up the stairs into my office and ransacked my drawers. Among the old canisters of film, and old cell phones I found a disregarded pencil eraser- thank god for saving things from the nineteen eighties.

I ran back down the stairs flushed the toilet, counted to ten then calmly entered the room and sat down shifting my presence so that my back was hiding my erasing arm. By some miracle of 1980s textile manufacturing the eraser didn’t fall apart and I was able to fill in the “correct” answers with enough variety to not arouse suspicion.

There were even better questions on the next page:

There are problems in me marriage

I feel I have lost my identity

I resent my child

(I am really glad these aren’t essay questions. I think)

I feel trapped by my responsibilities as a parent.

I often feel that my child’s needs control my life

I feel that I am:

  1. A very good parent
  2. A better than average parent
  3. An average parent
  4. A person who has some trouble being a parent
  5. Not very good at being a parent.

And still more, these are my favorites:

Sometimes my child does things that bother me just to be mean.

“Strongly agree, I mean disagree. “


The number of children that I have now is too many.

“Strongly agree I mean disagree.”

Eva’s test seemed to be going even better than mine and she was really pulling out all the stops. Suddenly she said to me, “Mommy I have to tee tee.”

Edwina’s eyes popped out of her head.

“You mean she is potty trained?”

“Yes, she was potty trained for tee tee from 18months, and we conquered number twos at twenty two months.”

Edwina was astonished. She was even more astonished that Eva knew her opposites, complex concepts, could count and use prepositional phrases, plurals, and had better pencil grip than her mom. The only thing I could really take credit for was that I was pretty good at lying to my kid about the TV being broken so she would read books.

“Well on the Ghost inside My Child, they say children with exceptional abilities have a past life they can still remember.”

Edwina’s eyebrow arches in my direction. I start to back track.

“I know going to the potty isn’t exceptional to most people.”

When Eva and I returned from the bathroom, Edwina had packed up her suitcase. I think I scared her off with too much talk about Lifetime television. This is what motherhood had done to my Saturday evenings. Edwina seemed to be in a rush out the door.

As she zipped up the suitcase, Edwina said, “Eva passed with flying colours.”

I thought to myself “Mommy passed too even if she had to cheat but Eva will never know until she finds my Derelict Mom blog archive.”

We were walking up the stairs toward the front door. Edwina paused to say goodbye and she could look directly into my office from where she was standing. Out of the corner of her eye I could see Edwina spot and stare at the ransacked drawers. I follow her eye and thinking on the spot I got creative to try and cover my tracks.

“Eva has a pet rat and it escaped when we were cleaning its cage. We think it is making a nest somewhere in my desk. “FiFi” “FiFi”

I was getting better at lying and now I was thinking it was right up there next to cheating, hoarding and parenting in the Derelict Mom list of useful skills.

Edwina seemed to buy it, and we said our goodbyes, Eva and I stood on the doorstep waving goodbye like the perfect developmentally advanced, Derelict Mother and Daughter.

Eva and I spent the rest of the evening looking under the couches, and in the desk drawers for Eva’s imaginary pet rat. “Fi Fi” “Fi Fi”

I was relieved. The only thing that stood between Derelict mom and a visit from the mental health visitor was a pencil eraser. Thank god for pencil erasers. One day I will be honest with my daughter, I will tell her the truth, that mom was just somebody who had some trouble being a parent. I know there are others out there.

A few weeks later I got my results in the mail. We both passed. Tucked in the envelope though there was another pamphlet “ Time out as a discipline technique.” I guess Eva’s naked episode made Edwina think I needed a few pointers. At least Derelict Mom didn’t have a naked episode was all that came immediately to mind.

Xx Derelict Mom.

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Long Days Journey into 1985

I can shoot a gun and ride a horse

I can shoot a gun and ride a horse

A few weeks ago I went to see my friend Timothy Trimingham Lee’s play in the Bermuda Festival. He came back from London to put on a production of the Eugene O’Neill play Long Days Journey into Night, and that it was – a long night was had by all. The original play is four plus hours and Tim was able to expertly cut his version down to three and a half hours, which is quite a feat to do seamlessly. Nevertheless it is a hard ask of a modern audience to watch a play that was written in 1941 and set in one location for four hours.  From a critical rather than entertaining perspective it is a towering play, Eugene O’Neill’s best, a thinly veiled autobiography of a family plagued with addiction. Although the play is certainly not modern it’s themes are and they resound for an island where families so often reside together or near each other (like our family) and cannot escape the ravages and temptations of addiction nor can they escape the temptation to argue with one another and life is generally better when the booze stays locked up in the garage outside. That’s where James Tyrone of the play locks up his liquor from his sons, and coincidently my father does the exact same.  My dad says he keeps it locked up so the handy men don’t steal it but I think it’s actually so his wife and kids don’t help themselves.  For some inexplicable reason he has now moved it out of the garage and put it under his bed. Our family of course comes from a long line of drinkers in the Bermudian tradition of rum swizzle mixed in a washing machine, vodka everyday and champagne only on special occasions. During the play I am sure we were all thinking, “Geesh it’s Friday I could really use a drink.”  I made my way right to the bar during intermission, but I think I might have been the only one to know we had another almost two hours to go.

Most of my family attended the play: myself, Chris, mom and dad, Aunt Ann, and the Uncles Michael and Michael. At about 11:30pm the play came to it’s long awaited climax when the drug addicted mother now finally completely insane and wearing her wedding dress, in faded glory, representing all she and the family had lost went on a crazy monologue about the past because everyone knows Mom has to have the last word. When the curtain fell, there was a moment of disbelief that the play had actually ended, for those of us who remained, who hadn’t snuck out at intermission, or made an exit in the second half when it was clear the play was not going to end before last call in the front street bars.

Leaving the theatre there was a heavy cloud following us out, the awkwardness of not being able to say what an amazingly life affirming play, but being haunted by its truths and reflections. Ironically Eugene O’Neill had found solace in Bermuda from his alcoholism and inspiration for this play, perhaps by watching the other ten thousand or whatever the population was then, alcoholics clinging to the rock.

Standing outside waiting for everyone to emerge there was a collective sigh, as everyone wiped their brows, “Phew my family is not as bad as that.” When my mother and father tracked the rest of us down, my aunt laughed and said to my mother,

“I remember a party when you came out in your wedding dress.”

“I remember that too!”  I said, imagining her swigging off a champagne bottle, but in reality it was far more sophisticated than that, it was Crystal champagne flutes and the wedding dress was worn to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary.

“It wasn’t just me!” my mother defended.

“All the guests were wearing their wedding dresses,” and they all happened to be swigging champagne too.

Looking at our watches it was after midnight, so instead of turning into pumpkins we went to the after party.  I had a glass of champagne, which was followed by a hot flash and I had to go home like Cinderella, as the clock crept farther past midnight and closer to Eva’s waking hour.  There is nothing like a toddler to curb your social life.

The next morning I was digging through old pictures for a genealogy project I am undertaking for Eva and I came across a picture from that infamous anniversary party of my mother in her wedding gown. I figured out it must have been in 1989. My mother looks great, my father looks like he needs a makeover but it was the eighties. We already saw in a pervious post what I looked like in the eighties and it wasn’t pretty. I was thinking about how our family had its vague similarities to the Tyrones, but we are really more happy drinkers, although we have all been known to have a monologue or two.

20th annivesary001

My pride in my familial line was brimming over as I began researching our history but little by little going through my parents’ files I found things that started to chip away at that family image previous generations had done their creative best to create.  I have to admit I am still a little disappointed I can’t trace my lineage back to Queen Victoria (she used to have dachshunds like me and sometimes I wonder if she let them kiss her like I do.)

I decided to dig out some old VHS tapes of my grandparents which I had transferred after they died and found one dating back to 1985.  Watching it I was instantly transplanted into the mid eighties of suburbia Texas around about the same era as my parent’s twentieth wedding anniversary.  While my parents were swilling champagne celebrating their anniversary our relatives in Texas were “letting Jesus save them.”   I didn’t know whether to be horrified, entertained or order myself a mid day bloody mary.

My mother has been denying the existence of relatives and Jesus for that matter, for years.  In 2009 I was inspired to trace my American lineage with hopes of becoming a Daughter of the American Revolution, and when I asked her about her father’s family tree, her response was:

“They were poor, their parents died young, all the siblings went their own ways and didn’t stay in touch so no one would know anything, and why the hell would you want to be a Daughter of the American Revolution?”

Fast forward to 2014, being under employed I decided to finally complete my side of a photo book Eva’s Great Gran (who is 105 and remembers the Titanic) created for her with pictures of relatives dating back to the 1800s up to the present with the respective family trees etc.  Digging through family files, I came across a file with my grandfather’s initials: CTY. Inside was a partial family tree and correspondence from at least two branches of the family descendant from his siblings.  I announced its existence to my mother who denied knowledge of it, leaving me wondering who filed it away, but I did recognize the handwriting on the file tab.

My mother has never been interested in her genealogy and I had always put that up to her not being interested in history or the past, as she was more concerned with her current social standing, even if she alternated that concern with threats of arson and moving to Hamilton (only a few miles but a world away.)

After reading the genealogy file on her side of the family and watching the Texas video from 1985 I think there is more to it. Her whole life had been a detour from the past, her family gradually moving East and simultaneously moving up in the world until mom ended up in Bermuda swilling champagne. I remembered a detour we made a few years ago on a family trip to Montana to go “glamping”  (glamour camping) at an exclusive ranch resort called Paws Up.  My mother’s mother’s family was from Montana so after landing in Billings we detoured to a little town called Harlowton for July 4th celebrations on our way to the resort. Despite the fact that I found it almost impossible to find a vegetable in the entire place, it had the rustic charm of a ghost town. I even met one of my grandmother’s old boyfriends who was able to continue smoking thanks to his handy wheel around oxygen cylinder.

We visited the house on main street where my great grandmother once lived which was now a museum. We went shopping at the local antique stores; we all bought cowboy hats and my father just to be different picked up a bear skin rug that the owner had shot and killed. Next door to the museum was the Graves Hotel, a railroad era establishment, which had long ago been shut down, but perhaps because they heard we were in town the bar inside was still in operation. We bought a few rounds of Pabst Blue Ribbon beers for the locals and they let us share in one of their bar side delicacies: Chicken gizzards, fried to order right next to the beer taps.  A few gizzards and beers in, Chris started dancing with the locals, but our happy hour was called abruptly to a close when the meth addict lady with no teeth tried to kiss Chris in the corner. I shook my head sure she would end up revealed as my long lost cousin. To get away from her Chris had to trade his Bermuda t-shirt for his freedom and like true out of towners we high tailed it out of the saloon wishing we had brought our horses.  This incident was my husband’s (who is from England) happy initiation to the Wild West and my American roots.

Some of the country must have rubbed off on my father, because when we got to the resort, while the rest of the family were enjoying happy hour at sunset, he crept behind a rock wearing his bear skin rug and scared the hell out of everyone especially the Uncle Michaels who called out for a rifle. Miraculously no one dropped their cocktails and Dad was able to shed the rug before he was shot by his own brother. Let’s just say there is a little bit of country in all of us, and we discovered on that trip how important it was to be able to ride a horse and shoot a gun.  A few years later my sister considered naming her daughter Montana, but decided against it after my mother convinced her it wasn’t appropriate.

Back in present day digging through these family files I realized that what I discovered in Montana and what I would discover in tracing the family, is that we are all human, the meth addicted toothless Montana cousin, the God Fearing Texas folk on the VHS tape, and us.  In the words of a cousin in her letter to my grandfather in the eighties,

“I started to research my family tree a little over a year ago, and at that time I promised myself that I would do research without judging the actions of our ancestors. Understanding that people live different lives in different generations and circumstances, it was not up to me to judge their actions as right or wrong. In our lines I have found ministers, lots of farmers, a family who sold one of their children, two committed to insane asylums, a family who chased down Indians to retrieve their captured wives, two murders and one suicide. Pretty much what most people find when they research their family trees.”

Most people? Okay. The first thing I thought was that she left out the alcoholics, but with this letter I was hooked on investigating the family tree starting with my mother’s side.  Because mothers always have to have the last word, even Derelict Mothers, I will end this blog post with a quote from Mary Tyrone in Long Days Journey Into Night  “ The past is the present isn’t it? It’s the future too.”

More on my genealogy in blogs to come, with video clips too.

Photos of the Graves Hotel:


Harolowton bar


Family Photos

Badxmasphoto2013 copy

2013 was a good year, and our family immortalized it with a typically awkward Christmas photo, which of course I will include in the my blog as well as a few from the archives. I am not sure when the Christmas Photo trend started it seems like an 80s thing to me. I can remember having family portraits in the 70s but not Christmas card photos until at least the mid eighties when cameras became more accessible right in time to capture my awkward years. I have two siblings though and it’s a toss up at who looks worse each year, there is usually someone, my mother, who looks good every year, and that’s the perks of being the matriarch and having editorial control. I suppose she should be called the grand matriarch now.

The grand matriarch is a woman of many agendas, and photographs are often at the top of her list. She has an iphone, an ipad, an imac but she still carries photos around in her purse. Thank god my sister gave her a grandchild in 2009 or she would still be carrying pictures of my thirty one year old little brother around in a baby blue pleather wallet frame.  She now has three grandchildren, the youngest is my daughter Eva and the grand matriarch just hounded me for two weeks to print out a picture of Eva for aforementioned pleather wallet frame. At the last minute before she departed on a trip, I fished out some photo paper and obliged. Need I mention my mother has plenty of pictures of Eva, she has an imac, a printer and photopaper. I reminded her that she could also show people pictures on her iphone but when I started talking about how she had to download Iphoto 11 and then when she took a photo on her iphone it would magically appear on her computer in Photostream. Lets just say she looked at me like I was talking about the delta flight to Mars. I gave up on initiating my mother to modern technology, she is not on facebook and thank heavens will never read my blog!

My mother never warns us when she has decided to take the family photo, although she has probably been planning it for some time, and you are not safe after the month of October. It could be the worst day of your entire life, you could have a bee sting on your eyelid and a fat lip and be at a family party and out would pop the professional photographer and especially if you are, like we are, related to a professional photographer- then you are never safe. My mother has the perfect way of picking the imperfect moment. Before the days of photoshop my mother’s editorial control would predictably choose the best picture of herself, which would undoubtedly be the shot where I looked like a deformed cousin. There was no way to make it democratic. Now we use photoshop and try to find an equitable solution.

Trolling through the shots this year…. Yes you can imagine I am the one with the unwashed hair and no makeup. I asked my mother for warning and her only response was that I should not have left the house looking like that.  I have gained at least some control over my mother with the fact that she asks my husband Chris to print her annual Christmas card, which is how I caught the picture of me pregnant in a bathing suit, which she snuck into the family photo montage a few years ago- I almost fainted. We now have a chance to edit her Christmas letter too. Once she wrote that my husband was the CEO of his company which was not only untrue ( he is Sales and marketing manager) it is also blatantly wishful thinking.  When we got married she drafted our wedding invitation because it was “her wedding” and when we saw the proof she had given him a new middle name. Christopher Fortescue Worsick.  My husband does not have a middle name, but my mother thought he needed one and her invention, came out of a gross misunderstanding of a joke three years before, you can expect nothing less.

This Christmas we convinced the grand matriarch to tell the truth a little bit more so we put the photoshopped picture on the front of the card, and one of the real pictures on the back but that can’t change the Christmas Letter which is usually an inflated, competitive and highly selective version of the truth. For instance this year, she writes about my father:

“Rick continues as Chairman of the St. George’s Foundation and President of the St. David’s Historical Society ( Carter House c 1640). This year the construction of a Settler’s dwelling c 1612 was completed. Rick received the “Clipper Award” from the Bermuda National Trust “for contributions to and unwavering support of St. George’s and St. David’s and championing their preservation.”

What she doesn’t mention is that she threatened to burn down the dwelling, a replica of  a 1612 settlers house that was made by hand by forty volunteers and masons, and it took over a year to build with antique tools that look like this and wooden tree nails:


She also didn’t mention that she calls all of his colleagues “relic hunters” and refers to them mockingly as his girlfriends even though most of them are male.

She mentions how my sister trained and ran the New York Marathon, an amazing feat, but my sister’s real motivation was to get some personal time away from her two kids, Trystan 5 and Sadie 2.  As any mother knows you have to come up with a good reason to stash them with someone else even if it’s their own father. But a marathon- I haven’t gotten there yet myself as I can barely run around the block, but if I had a second child, my name would be at the bottom of the marathon sign up sheet with all the other mothers and fathers escaping the weekend trappings of family life even if it was a race I would never finish!

My brother’s paragraph is still feeling the weight of omissions from previous years, and true as it maybe, the family is, has not and will not be full of job success, weddings and births year in and year out. Take my paragraph, I might as well be unemployed because I made the hilariously naïve decision to become a documentary film maker which is being unemployed and extremely busy all at the same time, oh wait- being a derelict mother feels exactly the same way. I highly doubt my mother will advertise in next year’s letter that her oldest daughter has started a blog, www.derelictmom.com. But maybe I should have more faith in my mother, always a truth spinner as she could probably editorialize it into a positive. Perhaps she will say that I have chosen to “self publish” a series of essays on motherhood.  Or she might choose to believe the internet does not exist like her iphone.

Anyway here are our most recent family photos and some from the archives. I don’t have too many followers so hopefully my siblings will forgive me for sharing these.

Xxx Derelict Mom.

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Who is Happy?


I think this article sums up one of the central conflicts of a mother’s life how to be a mother and a wife and still remember who you are without it being in relation to another person. Derelict mother here does take issue with the first sentence though…“Many married couples cite the birth of their first child as the happiest day of their lives. “

Or maybe I am just not one of the many or perhaps I just had too much morphine after my first abdominal surgery- the c section. I would say the day Eva was born was one of the more eventful days of my life but not the happiest. I am a scrooge aren’t I but I can think of better places to spend the Christmas season than in the hospital. The day Eva was born I was barely able to move and expected to take care of a baby. When they put her in my arms I smiled and said wow, and tried to look like I was beaming with joy but that was just the hormones, inside my rational mind was thinking, okay what am I going to do with this thing and who am I going to enlist to help me. Locate nurses’ buzzer, put the La Leche League on speed dial, handcuff doula to the hospital bed. Then I had to try breastfeeding, now there is a first time for everything but when you put your breast in an infant’s mouth and nothing happens, there is a new feeling of total panic and helplessness that comes over you- I wouldn’t call it joy. I cried all day the day Eva was born, it was tears of total bewilderment and fear. I am still talking about it two years later because it is etched in my memory and I was lucky Eva was born full term and totally healthy. Perhaps I am a wimp. A derelict wimp. However, one of the happiest days I do remember was the day six months later when I finally gave up breast feeding, and the day a few months after that when Eva first told me she loved me in sign language- now that was special.

Before I had a child of my own I thought women who became obsessed with their children and neglected their partners were just asking for trouble and the child obsession was some sort of choice. I laugh at my ignorance now… I had no idea because it wasn’t my reality, but that when a child comes into the picture, you don’t have time to focus on your husband or the marriage all you can do is take care of the screaming infant and if you are lucky take a shower once a week, and then there is that neglected other 75 percent of your life – your job. It really isn’t rocket science that marriages have a hard time after the introduction of children.

Everyone manages differently I have one child, and that’s enough for me. A lot of couples I know with two children are divorced or have discussed it. And there are always exceptions’ as I have a happily married friend with four kids, and that is her job and she is damn good at it. The fact of the matter is that I love my husband but a quiet candle lit dinner- Ha! But last night for the first time in quite a while Chris and I decided to have a date night after my writing group was postponed as I had already arranged for my parents to babysit. Our favourite restaurant was closed, and we had to go somewhere, which made me wish we had come home and warmed up a hot dog. Anyway, I made the unwise decision to call during dinner to find out how she was.

“Not good.” was the answer.

“All she would eat was three yogurts then she drank her bottle and cried and wouldn’t go to sleep and then she threw up everywhere.”

“You fed her three yogurts?”

“Your father did.”

When we arrived home at 10pm she was still awake watching TV after finishing an apple juice sugar riddled toddler cocktail. Oh well, so much for our night-cap.

Since we had our daughter Eva, Chris and I are both perpetually tired, but Chris seems to have retained his faculties, whereas I am perpetually absent minded. When Chris is on toddler duty in the playpen he usually asks me for a cup of tea. He is English and loves his cuppa. Sometimes I remember, but most of the time I forget, or bring him a cold cup of tea that has been steeping for an hour because I got side tracked. I can at least try to do that better, so while I am teaching Eva to say Please and Thank you I can do better at a few things myself. I am grateful but I am not very good at expressing it. Cup of Tea anyone? I wrote it under the to do list or rather do not forget list that Chris left for me this morning next to my computer. Here is a picture. Chris has started making lists for me 🙂


It’s Friday even for the Under employed!

Its Friday even for the under-employed like me: Aristocrats and Derelict Moms. I wish I was one but am currently taking ownership of the other. Happy Friday. If you haven’t revisited gin lately I suggest it. I haven’t touched the stuff since I was in college but my palate has become “refined” with age, and wine is too expensive. My lovely husband who still makes me a drink when I consistently forget to make him tea, fixed me a gin and soda the other weekend and a new devotee was born. Then someone broke out this bottle in our writers group 🙂 I have to say it reminded me of the days in New Orleans and that special distillery: K&B although vodka was their tipple. I just noticed my iphone is K&B purple- how cool am I. Wondering how many people remember the K&B? It was a pharmacy in New Orleans that was sadly bought out by Rite Aid circa 1997 and one more wonderful thing about New Orleans became history. I remember rushing to the K&B and buying memorabilia: vodka and purple flip flops. I think I still have the flip flops somewhere.

Tonight I am celebrating dereliction, underemployment and the old brands with an Aristocrat gin and soda. Chris tells me it’s actually called a tom collins if you add lemon juice and a bit of sugar or a gin rickey with lime. Gin n Juice, derelict mom style. Enjoy the weekend.


Who is the Grinch?


This one is for Megan Molloy who first said Eva was the spitting image of Cindy Lou Who!

My daughter is a girl. That might be obvious to many especially now with her frequent and occasionally public nude episodes but she didn’t learn to strip until half way through her second year.  I wonder if her nudity was brought on by potty training or her first year of people calling her a boy and frustrated by the fact that she could not speak or reach high enough out of her stroller to slap the idiots who would proffer, “Oh what a cute boy; he is very small for his age.” I can only imagine her annoyance at her derelict mother who instead of nipping this in the bud with a quick comment to avoid embarrassment, something like, “Her name is Eva, she’s a girl.” Instead I would say nothing about the gender miss-assignment because it happened too often and I was too tired, or maybe because somewhere I found it funny, waiting until the stranger noticed Eva’s hot pink onezie. What did it matter anyway? Eva would not be genderless for long.

At some point in November last year I realized her hair was long enough for pigtails. I bought hair elastics and twisted two mini pigtails into place and showed Eva her reflection in the mirror. From that day on, Eva has been a girl.  The attention she got for her pigtails did not go unnoticed, and now almost every morning Eva asks for pigtails, and mommy has lost another five minutes out of her morning routine. Eva picks out the elastics- they usually have to be blue. Then she spills the other hundred and has to pick them up one by one and put them back in the box. Mommy then brushes Eva’s hair on one side and as quickly and as painlessly as possible twists the pigtail into shape and whips an elastic around it to hold it in place to which Eva responds predictably.

“Hurt, Hurt, Hurt” and then she turns around to me, hands me the other blue elastic and moves around for me to do the opposite side. I repeat. She repeats.

“Hurt, Hurt, Hurt.”

I finish, and pick her up and show her what she looks like in her mirror. A smile beams across her face, and my heart melts, as well as the hearts of all the little boys at playgroup. Clothes tend to be more of a negotiation than her pigtails, so when she can be convinced to wear clothes and we head out to a public place we are perfectly prepared for our stranger encounters.  Now they say, “Wow what a cute little girl.” Not only did my daughter seemingly overnight turn from a boy into a girl, she is also now not a baby but a little girl. The unknown power of the pigtail.

But then we happen upon someone who says something I am not expecting.

“She looks like Cindy Lou Who.”

“Who?”  I ask?

“ Cindy Lou Who from Whoville?”

“Who?” I repeat.

“ From the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“Oh, Dr. Seuss.”  I say not really remembering the book.

We motor in the stroller down the street toward the Post Office, and someone else stops us, and it happens again.

“She looks just like Cindy Lou Who.”

“Who?” I ask for comic effect.

“Cindy Lou Who, who couldn’t be more than two”

“How true!” I say looking at my almost two year old.

When I get home I look up Cindy Lou Who on the internet. The resemblance is uncanny, not only does Eva look like Cindy Lou Who, but the Grinch’s dog looks a lot like our miniature dachshund Piglet.  So who is the Grinch?

With the aid of Photoshop Daddy made a poster for Eva for her birthday.  Eva appears as Cindy Lou Who with the Grinch, and the Grinch’s dog, Max. Underneath it he wrote, Happy Christmas from the Grinch to the Pinch, which is Eva’s nickname- “Pinchy.” Meanwhile I rushed out on Christmas Eve to buy Eva a copy of the Dr. Seuss book for Christmas.  But it wasn’t until after the holidays and Eva’s birthday were over, after we put the poster up in her bedroom that I, her derelict mother, sat down to read her the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” book. I am always a bit slow, figuring things out a bit after the threshold, typically derelict, but Eva cannot yet tell time.

I read to her, “ The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be perhaps that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

A few days later we took the Christmas tree down. Eva likes presents, Eva likes parties, but Eva loves Christmas trees. She was upset.

“Christmas tree, Christmas tree.” She said with the disturbing recently acquired tone of sadness I had heard only once before when a pigeon flew down and stole her bread. Now her parents were stealing her Christmas tree.

“Why are you taking the Christmas tree?”

“It’s broken.”

It’s my stock answer. Everything is broken in our house: the cartoon channel, the DVD player, mommy’s iphone and the internet are all broken in addition of course to the myriad of things that actually are broken.

“No, mended!” She likes to insist but I shake my head and reiterate,

“No Broken. We need to fix the Christmas tree lights. Daddy will bring it back next year.”

The blessing or curse with toddlers is of course that they have no attention span, so I was hoping that she would soon forget about her Christmas tree.

“Daddy fix it.” she said at about the same time as I spotted Daddy’s bright red axe propped up outside ready to be put to work. I tried to motion to Daddy to hide it but he just looked at me strangely as I jerked my head to the right toward the axe with the express parent sign language that he should hide it.

We waited until her naptime before Daddy chopped up the tree and then stored its limbs in the basement for firewood and its small branches went into the fireplace for kindling. I am sure Daddy felt like an executioner, but Mommy felt guilty for lying to Eva who in her imagination will be waiting for the Christmas tree to come back from Daddy’s workshop for an entire year.

When she woke up from her nap, she was pointing to the Grinch poster laughing at Max, the dog saying, “Piggy, Piggy.”

Daddy pointed to her picture as Cindy Lou Who and asked,

“Who is that?”

“Eva “ she said smiling proudly.

“Who is the Grinch? “  Daddy asked.

“Mommy!”  Eva answered.

My heart sank.

Daddy and Eva laughed. I grimaced, unintentionally in character.

“I am not the Grinch!”

“Grinch, Grinch, Grinch” Eva said and Daddy laughed.

I pretended to cry, again in character.

The next day I had a morning meeting at a coffee shop where new mothers hang out with their babies. Across from us a mother picked up a crying baby and put it over her shoulder where it stared at me with its beady baby eyes.

I shuddered my hands went into spasm, my arms making wild movements, as I declared to my friend,

“Brings back terrible memories.”

After I left the café I was walking down the street feeling guilty for my terrible unconscious reaction to seeing a little crying baby in the café, when I saw a mother with her one year old who was doing her baby best to walk down the sidewalk. In an attempt at kindness, I smiled and offered my best,

“Awww, how cute.”

The baby looked up at me, and promptly fell over and skinned her knee.

“I am the Grinch. “ came my terrible self-revelation.

The next morning Eva and I were in a rush to get ready and I didn’t have a chance to do her pigtails. When she came home from playgroup she demanded her pigtails be quaffed. But these weren’t any pigtails, these were.

“Pigtails for Daddy.”

So I obliged, and she spent the next thirty minutes admiring herself before her Daddy arrived home from work. When he walked in her eyes lit up, her smile went from ear to ear and her pigtails bobbed up and down in new heights of Cindy Lou Who cuteness. She repeated,

“Pigtails for Daddy.”

Daddy handed Eva back to me for her dinner and she looked at me with great disgust.

“No Daddy”

“No eat your carrots,” I responded.

“No Daddy!”

Giving up on dinner I announce, “Time for a bath.”

“No, No, No “ Eva responds.

“Yes, Yes, Yes” I reply. “We have to wash behind those ears.”

“No” she screams, I give up and she plays with Daddy for the rest of the evening, while I clean up her lunch box, make her bottle and prepare our dinner and meals for the following day.

“Time for bed” I say to Eva.

“No” she says “Yes” I say, taking her from her father’s arms and from her playpen.

She cries but accepts her fate. In her room she asks for the, “Grinch book. “ so I pick it up for us to read while I take out her pigtails.

“ And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so? “It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!” And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before…”

It dawned on me in that sentence that maybe having a daughter isn’t all cleaning, feeding, bathing and shopping at the store. Maybe having a daughter means a little bit more.

So I asked Eva,

“Do you love the Grinch?”

Eva replied, “Yes and I love Mommy too.” My heart grew three sizes that night and so instead of telling her Christmas was over I told her that a new year had begun. The next day, instead of cleaning out her drawers like I had intended to we went to the Aquarium, and spent the rest of the time chatting about seals, and turtles and flamingos and forgot about “The Grinch.” After she went down for her nap, I snuck the Grinch book out of her room and packed it away with the Christmas lights, extra wrapping paper, and her Christmas stocking. The picture of Cindy Lou Who is still up in her room a gentle reminder for the Grinch to appreciate every day of Little Cindy Lou Who, who cannot be more than two and not to spend every other moment washing miniature Tupperware containers, to let the dirty dishes stack up once and awhile.  There is more to life and it sleeps in a little room next to mine.


Piggy Grinch

Do you remember The Titanic?

I hope the answer is no, otherwise you would most likely be reading this from the other side. The Titanic sunk on April 14th 1912 but amazingly I know one person still living who remembers when the great ship went down, my daughter’s great grandmother Dorothy Kinder. Hopefully because my daughter Eva has a great gran she won’t think the Titanic was just a movie. It was Mrs. Kinder’s 105th birthday on Monday; born on January 13th 1909 she was a few months older than three when the Titanic sank. I too remember being three but it was in 1979, a bygone era but not quite as bygone as 1912, that’s even bygone for the current season of Downton Abbey.

Great Gran as we affectionately call her, remembers a friend of her mother’s arriving unannounced at their house to tell her the news of the ship sinking and she remembers it not because the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg drowning most of its passengers, but because in 1912 no one just rocked up to your house unannounced, you made appointments and your presence was announced. If you didn’t have a butler you pretended you did unless you found out the Titanic sunk, then you broke all rules of decorum and rushed house to house to spread the news. This is what she remembers: a change of routine.

My very humble and sad comparison is when Mommy puts makeup on and Eva starts to cry because she knows that means Mommy is actually leaving the house for a change and that creature called a babysitter is coming which happens so infrequently Eva treats her the same way as if her house was invaded by the Gruffalo or the evil pigeon that steals little children’s bread.

Daddy on the other hand is so accustomed to the “natural” look that the first time I put makeup on after having Eva about a year or two later, he screamed in shock as he came into the bathroom right as I was putting on my lipstick which I then smudged into my foundation with my unpracticed hand.

“ Oh My God” he said, “What did you do with my wife?”

“Not funny” I replied.

“You look like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.”

It wasn’t really what I was hoping for as a comparison to my idol Bette Davis but in some self-deceiving way it was flattering and it made me laugh. Chris can always make me laugh even if he is taking me down a peg or two in the process. I hope he is still making fun of me when we are really old but something tells me I will have forgotten about the existence of lipstick by then.

What is truly amazing about Eva’s Great Grandmother is that she still wears makeup at 105, she gets her hair done, she dresses up, in new clothes and jewelry.  Great Gran paints and she even lived by herself up until a few years ago. Living on her own only ended when she fell and hit her head, suffered a bleed on the brain, had brain surgery, and was not expected to survive. We flew over to the U.K. to say goodbye to her and when we got to the hospital after a red eye flight and several hours more of public transportation she was up reading the paper in bed, and greeted us with a cheery surprised, “What are you doing here!”  We should have known this would happen, after she was run over by a car when she was in her 80s, and broke her back she bounced back to then go on Safari and visit us in Bermuda several times. Great Gran of course, survived this most recent bump on the head, the brain surgery and went on to lead a full normal life in a lovely retirement home, only because she lost a bit of her short term memory but who wants to remember the headlines when they can tell you about the Titanic. Great Gran also remembers when World War One began, in a sense her memories of childhood are memories of change, and she has seen an awful lot of it in over a century.

Last year when we brought Eva to see her in the summer, she asked us,

“So how many years are there between us, Eva and I?”

“About a hundred?” she guessed.

“A hundred and three years” we answered.

“My goodness, funny thing time,” she said.

“Oh to be her age and to have it all ahead of me, I would love to be her age again.”

Great Gran said as they rocked side by side in two rocking chairs together for a few moments but separated by several lifetimes in experience.  It was a moment I will never forget. Being a millennial I whipped out my Iphone but being a Derelict Mom it had run out of battery so I dug out my point and shoot and I took a photo but the card was corrupted and the picture like the moment is now lost to time.

We were all thinking, “Oh to be Great Gran’s age and to have seen the things she has seen.”

It’s a rare thing to live over a hundred. Evidently if you live over 100 you probably have something called a longevity gene. I am pretty sure Great Gran has one of those. If you ask her, she credits her longevity on,


I personally would give credit where credit is due— it’s the lipstick — in other words it’s her attitude, her zest for life, for new experiences, appreciation of the daily beauties of life. Eva brought Great Gran a posy of sweet peas, which she put in a vase in her room, before we went out for lunch.

“Oh these are so gorgeous, I must paint them,” she said.

At the restaurant, my mother in law and I ordered chicken salads, my husband had the fish and chips, and Great Gran, she had:

Cheesy potato skins and a pint of beer.

When they brought out the pint of beer they put it down in front of me. I laughed and pointed at Great Gran.

“It’s for her.”

She used to eat salmon but after she turned 100 she decided to splurge. Moderation? The heck with that. Did I say how much I love Great Gran! I really have two idols, Great Gran and Bette Davis.

On her 105th birthday she had a party at the retirement home and the local newspaper came and photographed the family. I include the link to the article below and a few pictures of Great Gran.

I can say I am overjoyed that my Eva has had the pleasure of meeting her Great Gran, bringing them together feels like the future touching the past, especially as I know my little Eva has inherited much of Great Gran’s tenacity of spirit, and perhaps just perhaps a longevity gene that will be marveled at in a century to come.

When I think of Great Gran and I think of my own mother and her constant nagging about my appearance, and I think you know maybe they are right maybe I should put on makeup more often, but then you know I wouldn’t be me, Eva’s derelict mother.


To the Unsinkable Great Gran! Happy 105th Birthday !

Eva Meets Great Gran

Bottoms Up

Eva visiting gran

Mum’s 105 birthday article