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Posts Tagged ‘Kate Hilton’

Pen Pal Project, Recent News

My Midlife Reading List

July 14, 2015

My office

Dear Reva,

You made my week by asking me for a midlife crisis reading list. It has been a pure pleasure to spend time thinking about the books that have helped me navigate this life stage.

Kate's bookshelfAs an aside, I would add that part of the challenge of these years seems to be the struggle to chart your course while being battered by external storms that rise unexpectedly. Take my tennis group, for example. I play tennis with a small, much-loved group of friends every week. All of us, of course, are grappling in various ways with professional ambitions, and often we talk about our work and the manifold frustrations inherent in it. But over the past six months, personal events have overshadowed professional concerns: my husband left me, R’s mother had a stroke, M’s sister fell into a coma from a brain tumour, and K had to stop playing for a few months to do intensive physio on her shoulder.

All of that to say that while planning is essential for all kinds of professional and personal achievement, my own midlife experience has forced me to grapple with the problem of how to carry on when life refuses to conform to any plan you’ve ever made. At this stage, my midlife journey is primarily an interior one, about letting go of perfectionism, and accepting impermanence, and being in the here and now, and looking within for support and validation, and knowing that the only thing I actually control is my own behaviour. All of which is, for me, really, really hard.

There are a few approaches to reading as a cure, or bibliotherapy as some call it. One approach is to read fiction about people going through their own midlife crises, which will either cause you to nod in recognition, or feel better about your life in comparison to the lives on the page. Some books in this vein that I deeply love include Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You.

Another approach is to read memoirs by people who have soldiered through midlife and emerged as stronger, wiser and more authentic humans. I spend an entire week on vacation last year reading nothing but memoirs by funny women. It did more good than the sun and margaritas. Here I recommend Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck (and also Heartburn, which is supposed to be fiction but isn’t), Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please.

And lastly, there is the nakedly self-help category. I was never a big fan of self-help books, but have read more of them in the past year than ever before. I still wouldn’t describe myself as a self-help convert, but I have huge admiration for Pema Chodron and Brené Brown. In particular, Chodron’s The Places That Scare You and When Things Fall Apart, and Brown’s Daring Greatly have prompted me to have some useful and enlightening conversations with myself.  And I love Brown’s famous TED talk, which describes her own midlife crisis.

While you are loading up on reading material, don’t forget that every midlife crisis needs a playlist. I – surprise! – favour power songs by women. Try Sara Bareilles’ Brave, Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten, Alanis Morissette’s You Learn, Katy Perry’s Roar and Rachel Platten’s Fight Song for starters. With the right soundtrack, anything is possible.

Yours,

Kate

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Read Reva’s last letter here.

Pen Pal Project, Recent News

Woman’s Work

June 17, 2015

New office in new house

Dear Reva,

A day late again, with my apologies. Moving is woman’s work, at least the tedious parts of it (the packing of the innumerable Lego pieces, as opposed to the negotiation of the mortgage), and this woman has been working. Of course, this move was different from past ones, as I did the man’s work too: the mortgage and the lawyers and the insurance and the barbecue hook up.

It turns out that you don’t need a Y-chromosome for those. It also turns out that the woman’s work is harder and takes much longer.

Moving is stressful, but also boring, both to do and to talk about. Stories about moving don’t generate conversation, just other war stories: “You think YOUR handyman took a long time? Mine took four months to assemble an IKEA unit!” As I said, not interesting.

But all of this (Water in the basement! Raccoons on the roof! Wall unit too tall! Furniture too big!) got me thinking about a woman’s work in the context of the modern working couple. I ran into a friend from law school the other day, a litigator at a prestigious firm, who said: “I had to take a week off to attend all of the end of year events for my second grader! Write about that!” Her husband – and perhaps this goes without saying – had not missed an hour at the office.

It is, obviously, the end of the school year, that time when the organizational zeal has leached out of every cell of every mother, and all that is left is a hollow shell of a person who drives up to the front door of the school each morning after the bell, rolling down her window long enough to shout at her child, “RUN!”

When was the last time you checked the homework folder? Or tried to make your kids try a new food for dinner? Or wondered whether or not their shoes still fit? Does your child still have homework, even? Who knows? Who cares? You’ll deal with it when you pack them for camp. After you deal with the raccoons.

And in the meantime, if you a cogent thought in your head, you might wonder why you are the one forgetting to remember all of these womanly tasks. Or remembering to forget them.

Yours,

Kate

Read Reva’s last letter here.

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Pen Pal Project

Turning The Page

http---www.pixteller.com-pdata-t-l-107820

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My office

Dear Reva,

Moving day is on Thursday, and I am sitting in a half-empty house. I’m moving to a lovely but much smaller house, and I’ve given away a lot of furniture, all of which was picked up over the weekend. New, appropriately sized couches and chairs and tables will start arriving once we move, but for now, we are rattling around in mostly vacant rooms. We are all adapting surprisingly well to this physical evidence of a turning of a page in our family’s story.

I am thinking, of course, of the events of the past eight months that have brought me to this moment. I remember the shock, bewilderment and searing grief of a husband’s unexpected departure. I remember the blur of months spent putting one foot in front of the other, of just surviving to do it again the next day. I remember the agonizing conversion of a longstanding partnership into a set of legal obligations. I remember my children’s pain and my own. I remember the friends who drifted away, compounding the loss.

But I remember, too, everyone who swarmed around, who called, who let me cry on the phone and in restaurants and in the car and on the tennis court – everywhere, basically – and who acted like it was no big deal that I was leaking constantly, and who fed me dinner and wrote me notes, and who told me that I was fabulous and that I would heal, over and over again. I remember who picked me up when I couldn’t get off the floor on Boxing Day. I remember who took me to the park and found a patch of sunlight to warm me in the dying days of autumn. I remember who left a week of dinners on my doorstep. I remember who took me out for my birthday, and made sure I had a lovely present. I remember each and every act of kindness and love, and I am so grateful. I can’t tell you.

Which brings me to a subject I’ve thought quite a bit about over the past year: the difference between joy and happiness. No one, least of all me, would say that this has been a happy year. But it has been full of moments of unadulterated joy.

I am a big proponent of the cultivation of joy. It seems to me that joy is the great casualty of working motherhood, and of modern life more generally. We treat joy as a frivolity, a distraction from the real work of securing solid, foundational happiness. And that is a great pity, because, as the late, great Maya Angelou observed: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

I’ve come to appreciate the value of joy this year, so much so that I made a video about it.

I am, by nature, quite a joyful person. And this means that even if my life turns to absolute shit in an objective sense, I can still manage to find pleasure in small things. Joy doesn’t require big plans or radical changes. Joy isn’t ambitious. And that means – listen carefully – it isn’t something we can fail at.

Isn’t that a project we should all get behind?

Yours,

Kate

Read Reva’s last letter here.

Read the Pen Pal Project archive here.

Pen Pal Project, Recent News

Feeling like a ‘natural’ mother

 

May 20, 2015

My office

Dear Reva,

Happy Birthday!

I’m so sorry to be a day late with my letter this week, though it does give me the opportunity to wish you well on your big 3-9. I hope you got everything you wanted, including some time to reflect on your plans for the year ahead. The year before I turned 40 was a completely transformative one for me. I wouldn’t wish everyone the same experience – transformation is not for the faint of heart – but I know from your letters that you are ready for a new adventure. I’m looking forward to coming along on it.

Given that your last two letters have been about parenting, I think you will understand the reason for my tardiness: I took the boys to NYC for a long weekend, my first trip with them alone. It was a good moment to reflect on my own parenting style, and some of the questions that you ask about how and if mothering comes ‘naturally’ to women.

I’m not a fan of boxes and categories (I nearly listed ‘cages’ here, which tells you something about my approach to boxes and categories), and this is particularly true of mothering. I also get suspicious when the word ‘natural’ is applied to women as mothers. Good, natural mothers, it seems, opt willingly for whatever choice is the hardest, most painful and most self-denying; bad, unnatural mothers are those who opt on Day One for the epidural and continue, at every opportunity, to choose the path that preserves their sanity and a sense of themselves as distinct from their offspring. Selfish, really.

Of course I have times when I feel like a fraud as a mother (who doesn’t?) but for the most part, imposter syndrome takes hold when I am forced into a model of mothering that isn’t, well, natural for me.

For example, here is my personal word association for maternal failure: holiday meals. Getting my children dressed up against their will for a ‘festive’ meal and watching them struggle to use cutlery and eat food they dislike, while other family members watch in judgment is a special kind of torture for me. I am also bad at the following:

Playing, or feigning interest in, video games
Doing activities that involve being cold
Sports
Discipline
Sitting around and doing nothing
Going to the playground (see above)

But I am very good at:

Reading and instilling a love of words
Cuddles
Listening to what is said, and what is not
Adventures and special events
Creative solutions to any problem

And I find that when I parent with an emphasis on my strengths, I feel quite comfortable in the role; whereas, when I try to be a different kind of parent, a more authoritarian one, or a sporty one, or a chilled out one, for example, I feel like an imposter.

I was thinking of the event we did together the other night, where we got into a conversation about what we do for fun. One of the women in the audience said that she didn’t do much for fun, other than hang out with her children, and I said, “I don’t think parenting is fun.” It’s true. There are many things that I like to do for fun, and parenting isn’t on the list. Tennis is fun. Dinner out with friends is fun. Reading is fun. Talking about books and writing with other writers is fun. I could go on. I take delight in many things.

Parenting is work. Of course it is. Parenting is an ongoing act of love. And ongoing acts of love (as opposed to falling in love which takes little thought or effort, or even sense), are, as we know but don’t like to admit, work. Rewarding work. Meaningful work. Even joyous work. But not effortless. Not without struggle. Not without worry and frustration. Not ‘natural’.

And this is all good news, my Reva, because if we let go of the idea that there is one successful way to parent, we’ll be freer to find a way that works for us, either inside or outside the box.

Yours,

Kate

Read Reva’s last letter here: http://www.revaseth.com/penpalproject/real-mothers-day/

Read the Pen Pal archive here: https://www.facebook.com/ourpenpalproject?ref=hl

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Courage, my love

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My office

Dear Reva,

I’m celebrating a big anniversary this week. Two years ago, I self-published The Hole in the Middle. I didn’t really choose self-publishing. I did it because I couldn’t get anyone to take me seriously as a writer in the traditional publishing business.

This week, my publisher is shipping a brand-new edition to bookstores across the country, with a quote on the front from a famous writer who also happens to be a new friend (we met at a literary festival last summer). It’s so amazing and weird that Kobo asked me to write a blog about it.

But honestly, when I look back at everything that’s happened? The self-publishing, and the crazy internet sensation, and the Canadian book deal, and the U.S. book deal, and the marriage breakdown – all of it connected, all of it complicated and bittersweet – do you know what strikes me the most?

I can’t believe how f***ing brave I was. I’m so proud of that. I’m a fairly shy person, all evidence to the contrary. I used to have a phobia about public speaking. I used to have an almost crippling anxiety about what people thought of me. The biggest obstacle to my success with the book, from the beginning, was my own fear.

Courage is a relative quality. It is quite different from fearlessness. To be courageous is to do the things that haunt you. Only you know what they are. To self-publish my book, to put myself out on social media, to tell everyone I knew that I had written something, and ask them to buy it, all the while knowing for an absolute fact that no one in the book industry believed my book deserved publication: that took every bit of courage I had, which was significantly more than I knew I possessed. (I filmed a video about it.)

And now? I feel like the old rules don’t apply to me anymore. It is scary but also truly liberating.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned: Not everyone will like you. Not everyone will value the same things you do. Not every relationship will survive forever.  People change. You will too.

These are terrifying realizations, but once you accept them as true, the rules shift. The most important questions change. What do you want to contribute? What are your greatest talents? Who deserves your loyalty and your time? Who doesn’t? What are you doing because you think you should? What are you doing because you genuinely love to do it?

On a micro-level, I’m exploring these questions while choosing furniture for my new house. My designer, who is accustomed to working with couples to identify the appropriate shade of greige, is thrilled. There is no compromise. There is no discussion. What do I like? It turns out that I like … what I like. Which is random and eclectic and colourful and creative. Who knew? Here is my new carpet, for example:

instagram carpet, rug

My point here, and I do have one, is that we spend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to fit in with other people – families, friends, and especially spouses. But maybe we ought to practice being ourselves a little now, as Jenny Joseph’s famous poem suggests? We – all of us – deserve that.

Really looking forward to our event on Friday!

Yours,

Kate

Read Reva’s last letter here.

Find the Pen Pal archive here.

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.

Yours,

Kate

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Great Expectations

April 7, 2015, 6:30 a.m.

Dear Reva,

I’m writing to you at the last minute this week. I rarely work before school drop off at 8:45, but I’ve been struggling with what I want to share.

Normally, I write to you about personal things, but things I’ve had time to process. This week has been one of the saddest and most stressful of my life. I’ve had several of those weeks in the past year, but we weren’t writing to each other then. But I can’t come up with any other topics, really, because my busy brain is, well, processing.

Here’s what happened, in short: I spent a full day in mediation and arrived at a final separation agreement with my husband, and sold my house the same evening. In other words, I dismantled, in one day, a life that I had spent 15 years building. These are positive outcomes in many ways, actually, but I feel somewhat dazed. When I wake up in the morning these days, I’m often disoriented, as you are when you wake up in a hotel far from home, thinking that you are in your own bed, and wonder: where did that ugly lamp come from? I always need a few seconds to locate myself in time and space.

Being in the here and now: I told you in an early letter that this is my challenge, or as you yoga types like to say, a core aspect of my practice. I know this because I’ve been doing Moksha yoga recently – your influence! I find it unexpectedly grounding. Also, all the sweating makes me feels as though I’m expelling toxic stress, though part is mostly in my head, I’m sure.

I liked your letter about drinking. I’m interested in how we (women in particular, but men also) use numbing behavior to shield ourselves from discomfort and vulnerability. Drinking is one method, certainly, but perfectionism is another; as long as we are focused on the next achievement, there’s no need to stop and ask ourselves why, or even if, we really want whatever we are chasing after.

Have you read any of Brené Brown’s work? She does research on shame, and writes compellingly about the lengths that we will go to protect ourselves from vulnerability. Her point, a good one, is that if you numb one feeling, you numb them all: numb sadness, and you numb happiness, numb fear, and you numb courage. Check out her TED talk here.

I’m also intrigued, though not especially surprised, by the study you cite on women’s declining happiness levels. As Nora Ephron once said: “The major concrete achievement of the women’s movement in the 1970s was the Dutch treat.” I’ve been a stalwart feminist since adolescence, but really, doesn’t it seem, more often than not, like our generation of women got a raw deal?

And we’re supposed to be thrilled with all of our amazing choices! We can choose to have high-powered careers, for example, while other people raise our children, and be exhausted all the time, and wonder what it is all for. Or we can choose to stay home with our kids, and feel judged by working women, and guilty for squandering all our talents and opportunities. Or we can choose a middle road of part time or less ambitious work, and feel uncomfortable with the trade-offs we’ve made.

And many of us in every category are pouring a big glass of wine at the end of the day to numb feelings of frustration and disappointment.

In mediation this week, the mediator began by saying: “All divorces are about disappointed expectations.” I thought it a very profound observation, and true more broadly. Midlife, too, is about disappointed expectations, and a successful transition involves revisiting and recalibrating the expectations we’ve carried into midlife from other ages and stages. I am not saying that we should lower them, necessarily, but that we need to be more honest about them, with other people and with ourselves.

A lot of ink is being spilled these days about happiness, and I’m all for it.  We are the luckiest people in the world, and we should all be happier than we are.  But until we let go of old expectations, and stop numbing our disappointments, and come alive to what we really want from our relationships, our work and ourselves, happiness will feel elusive.  Elizabeth Gilbert circulated a quote this week by Howard Thurman, a preacher and American civil rights leader, and it struck a chord with me: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

It is spring, after all.

Yours,

Kate

Pen Pal Project

Turn down the volume!

March 23, 2015
My parents’ kitchen

Dear Reva,

I loved your last letter, which I read at Disney. It provided a few precious moments of serenity (perhaps sanity would be a more accurate word choice there) in a wild week.

You may find this strange, but creativity was on my mind over March Break. Not my own (I’ll get to that), but Big Vision creativity, which is very much on display at Walt Disney World. Love Disney or hate it – I would hold sympathy with either view – but it is impossible to ignore the sheer ambition of the place. I was struck both by the vast scale of the vision, but also the precision of the execution, in what was, not that long ago, a giant swath of Florida swampland. Fascinating, in a once-in-a-lifetime kind of way (hear that, kids?).

How and where do I harness creative ideas? I think this is a wonderful question, and the first answer to it is very much dictated by my life as a mother: however and wherever possible. I won’t say ‘in a perfect world’, because it wouldn’t be a perfect world if I were childless, but in a world where I had fewer domestic responsibilities, I would get my best ideas on long walks, alone, in the morning. I rarely take long walks alone, in the morning or at any other time, so I have to make do.

I was talking to my dad about this question last night. The manuscript for my second book is due in September and I will now become extremely disciplined about my productivity because I never miss deadlines. And so I am trying to figure out how to reduce the noise around me to focus on ‘hearing’ and ‘seeing’ the story I want to tell. I don’t mean literal noise, although that also needs to be managed. I mean the number of things that clamour for my mental attention, pulling my focus away even during times set aside for writing, and drowning out the sound of the characters’ voices.

Take today for instance. On Monday mornings, I have two hours blocked off in my calendar for writing. My house is being sold this week, so I’m living at my parents’ house. In preparation for today’s return to work, I spent yesterday doing laundry, fetching warm clothes and lunch boxes and school uniforms from my house, making a run to the one store in Toronto that makes the bagels that my son eats for his school lunches, and meeting with my lawyer to sign some documents. Organized! Prepared!

And then, at the end of the day, my younger son spiked a high fever which had him up twice in the night and sleeping with me. He slept, I should say. And then he vomited. So this morning, I slept (because I can’t write a coherent word on no sleep) and did more laundry. And now I am racing with the clock to get this letter done before I head out to pick up my older son from school, while my younger son swoons on a nearby sofa and threatens, at twenty-minute intervals, to vomit again. You see? LOUD.

image

I have a wonderful writing mentor who says that he prefers his life to be extremely boring when he is writing a book. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, my life is far from boring right now. But the book is still due in September, and I know I’ll get it done somehow. Working mothers are good at finding a way.

Yes, I know there are some men who are excellent at multi-tasking and who contribute equally to childrearing and domestic labour. I know about these men because people hold them up as examples of the future of marriage, and I hear a lot about them every time a woman complains about gendered inequality within marriage.

I think men are encouraged to focus on work, and women are expected to focus on work and absolutely every other aspect of family life as well, and it is probably to everyone’s detriment, but certainly to women’s.

I suspect that this expectation of women, that we perform flawlessly on all fronts at all times, without any real acknowledgement of the value of our unpaid work, is one of the reasons why we compete so relentlessly with each other. Comparing ourselves with other women is the only way we can evaluate ourselves on the overall picture of our lives – our paid jobs, our volunteer jobs, our parenting, our homes, our bodies, our sex lives, our spouses – and determine our level of success or failure.

And since I don’t think the future of marriage is arriving any time soon, maybe we should try to lighten up on ourselves and each other. THAT would be revolutionary.

Yours,

Kate

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.

Yours,

Kate

pen pal, Kate Hilton