Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Pen Pal Project

Help wanted

April 20, 2015

Dear Reva,

Thanks so much for your letter.

First off, it must be said: you look stunning in a wedding dress.

I haven’t read Anne Kingston’s book, but it is now at the top of my to-read list. It will make a nice break from (and counterpart to, come to think of it) Anna Karenina. I stumbled across a list of the Greatest Books of All Time, and was shamed by the number that I had somehow failed to read. So I ordered a stack of them and am working my way through.

I confess that the western Disney Princess Bride fantasy exercises a powerful hold on me. This is not an easy admission. I’ve been a feminist for so long that I don’t remember any other way of being. And yet for all of my no-nonsense pragmatism, my desire for self-sufficiency and my lengthy education in gender theory, I have the heart of a romantic. And not just any romantic, but a gooey, true-love-believing, soul-mate-seeking, teenaged-girl romantic. It’s slightly mortifying.

In my defence, I am also heavily influenced by my parents’ marriage, which was and still is an extraordinarily successful love match. They met by chance when my mother was 17 and my father was 19, and have now been married for 47 years. They visibly adore each other.

But, as we know, my inner romantic has taken a serious body blow in recent months, so I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations of love and marriage. In your last letter to me, you asked whether or not we would work so hard at our relationships if we truly understood that they are impermanent. In fact, I think we work so hard at them precisely because we understand their fragility.

We understand that early romantic love is a kind of dream-state, and that lasting love requires dedicated work from both partners. What frightens us is the knowledge that marriage is a game for two, and that no amount of effort from one can make the other want to play for keeps. And we are right to be scared. We put huge trust in the hands of the one we marry, and we do it in the face of poor odds.

But we put our lives, also, in the hands of other people who form a community around us, and while each individual relationship may be fragile, the web of community relationships is not. I’ve been humbled, over and over again, by the kindness of family and friends in recent months. Some people have disappointed me, yes, but the net of support has held strong. And this makes me think that no effort invested in building relationships is wasted.

On that note, I’ve been filming videos for my website, and I did one on the importance of asking for help. I’m much better at giving help than I am at receiving it, and I’ve been learning – both through my publishing experience and through my divorce – that there is real growth to be found in opening oneself to the help of others.

This spring has had a hard birth, in so many ways, but there are warmer and better days ahead. Thank you for being a steady strand in the net. Your friendship means more than I can say.




Pen Pal Project

Motherhood is not a competition

Read Reva’s last letter here.

March 9, 2015

My desk

Dear Reva,

It’s been a wild week around here as we all get organized for our first March Break vacation as a newly constituted family of three. Or not exactly three, because my parents have decided that this is the year to take everyone to Disney, which means that the entire Hilton clan (youngest member aged 6 weeks) is heading to Orlando on the weekend. It will be crazy and exhausting and distracting and warm. And I can’t wait.

I’m feeling better, thanks. Another February is over, and we are all still standing. This is cause for celebration, and a ritual burning of Palo Santo wood (thanks for that, too).

You asked in your last letter about depression. I’ve had it since I was a teenager, although I wasn’t diagnosed until my late twenties (while articling at a law firm, not coincidentally). My own terror of mental illness prevented me from getting treatment for many years, and one of my few regrets in life is that I wasted so much time pretending that I was perfectly fine. Even still, I told very few people during my high-powered career years, and during my marriage. Self-employment as a writer and marital separation have been very freeing in this sense, as the consequences of external disapproval are relatively minimal.

And speaking of external disapproval, let’s talk about motherhood.

I’d love to hear more about what your ‘good mother’ looks like. I think we all come to motherhood with a factory setting, a series of built-in expectations that we’ve imported from our own families, and created in opposition to our own families, and absorbed from the culture around us (The Cosby Show, ironically, springs to mind).

I happen to think that any mother who provides the necessaries of life (food, shelter, clothing), and who makes her children feel loved and safe, is a ‘good mother’. Does anyone seriously disagree with me on this point? No? In that case, I think we should stop beating ourselves up over the things we believe we are failing at as parents (cooking perfect family meals seven nights a week, producing musical prodigies, organizing elaborate camping trips) and celebrate the things we do well.

For example, I don’t ski. I don’t like skiing. I don’t like the cold. I don’t like driving for hours in bad weather to find a place where it is even possible to ski in the flatlands of Ontario. But I’m Canadian, so for a long time I obsessed over the idea that my children should learn to ski. I looked into programs for them, and tried to encourage my kids to sign up for them. But you know what? They aren’t interested in skiing (or in hockey, for that matter). Call it nature, call it nurture, it doesn’t matter. They are Canadian children who don’t ski (or play hockey).

So be it. They like reading, and I care more about that.

I love being a mother of sons. I grew up in a house of girls, one of three sisters, and went to a girls’ school and a girls’ camp, so my parenting has an anthropological quality sometimes. Have you seen Boyhood yet? You must. It is stunning for many reasons, one of which is the emergence, in real time, of a man from the body of a boy. But it also captures the depth of a relationship between a mother and her son, and suggests, eloquently, that you can make a lot of mistakes as a parent and still produce great kids, just by being a steady and loving presence in their lives. It’s wistful and heartbreaking and harrowing and comforting, all at the same time – not a bad description of motherhood itself, come to think of it.

Motherhood is not a competition. It’s a relationship. To be a good mother, you need to use what is best in you – your strengths, your talents, your joys – to cultivate a relationship that brings out the best in your children. Focus on what you love and do well and let the rest go.

Have a great March Break.



pen pal, Kate Hilton


Sign up for my newsletter for hot-off-the-presses updates on books and giveaways!
This is default text for notification bar