Photo credit: Kevan Wilkie
Angie Abdou is no stranger to the book writing process– the Canadian author has won awards for her novels. In her most recent book, the memoir Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom, she explores the experience of being a mom to an amateur hockey player. We talked to her about writing a memoir, parenting in the age of anxiety, and some heartfelt parenting advice.
We’re excited about the recent release of your memoir, Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom. As a fiction writer, was it a challenge to write in a different genre?
I enjoyed bringing the skills of a novelist to a nonfiction book – the process of trying to make my family’s story come alive in scene rather than exposition, and then sneak the research in. I hope the reader gets drawn in through a candid, voyeuristic story about our everyday life and then absorbs the research about sport as a bonus. That’s the kind of memoir I like: where I’m pulled along through a compelling read but then benefit from the author’s research (without the feeling of having worked for it). I suspect the most challenging part of nonfiction versus fiction will come with the book’s release. I’ve always been able to hide behind fiction: I just made it up! It’s only a make-believe story! This time the “main character” has my name. There’ll be no hiding.
Do you have any advice for other parents whose kids are interested in sports perceived as intense or dangerous?
Do the research. Know what you’re getting into and what you’re getting your kids into. Be vigilant. We know more than ever about brain injuries, for example. Parents have to make the decisions that feel right for their own families, but to do that properly they need to be informed. It’s too easy to get pulled along with what everyone else does. I wrote Home Ice as a way to step back from the parent race, inform myself, and create room to decide what I wanted my family life to look like. I hope Home Ice will provide information and space for other families to do the same. In immersing themselves in my family’s story and my exploration, readers can think deeply about their own family’s story.
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
Laundry. It never ever ends.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
With the kids: the beach. On my own: run.
What is your best parenting hack?
I met Karl Subban recently at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words and he said, “Your kids just want to spend time with you.”
He told me that in his family, hockey was never simply for hockey’s sake: rather, hockey was the way they spent time together. Now when my kids seem pestering and life seems overwhelming, I hear his voice: Your kids just want to spend time with you. So I’ll say, “Hey guys, wanna go for a walk?” Or I’ll suggest we go to the beach or for a bike ride or read a book together. If I really can’t make the time in that moment, I say, “I need to finish this work, but give me X hours and then we’ll go do something together.”
I’m amazed how much calm and happiness that simple bit of advice has brought to family life. With my kids already nine and eleven, I’m starting to realize fast it all goes, and I can make time for my children. Thank you, Karl!
What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?
We’ve always said we wouldn’t lie to our kids. We do the best to answer all their questions straight up. But that has led to much hilarity. When my daughter was four, I heard her tell her six-year-old brother: “Be nice to me! I’m the only sister you have! If you’re not careful, Daddy is going to have to sperm you a new sister.”
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
My daughter is very shy. Recently, she had to do a presentation in front of her third grade class. She chose to do it on the history of fairies. I know she felt scared; the week before she asked us every night to help her prepare and practice. When I saw her stand in front of her whole class and deliver this finely polished speech, I could have burst from pride. When she made her little joke – “Fairies are very shy, even shyer than me!” – I had tears in my eyes. The thing that makes me proudest? She knew working hard and preparing well would allow her to overcome her obstacle. And it did.
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Do what you love – that’s what you’ll be good at. Never feel pressured into an education or career because you think someone else wants it for you. Do what Joseph Campbell says, and follow your bliss.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are so many ways to not be good enough at this job. As soon as you excel in one place, you realize you’re losing in another place. I committed fully to supporting my son in hockey and only realized recently how my relationship with my daughter took a blow. I haven’t spent as much time with her as would be ideal. I’m trying not to berate myself for that – but to be more vigilant about time with both of them going forward.
I also remember the best advice I ever received as a mother. Early in my motherhood days, I was a nervous parent: I almost thought it was my job to worry. At a literature conference, I met a pediatrician who told me that the way we parents act and the way we perceive the world teaches our kids how they should act and perceive the world. If I’m nervous all the time, I’m teaching my kids that the world is a place to be feared and that they should let their own stress run the show. That insight changed me.
How do you tackle the work/life balance?
Lists. My desk calendar is hilarious – it looks totally out-of-control, but only because I write everything down (including breaks to do things with my children and time spent with my husband). If I only write down work tasks, then work always takes precedence … and I wouldn’t even get to the life part.
What was the last book you read?
I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You by David Chariandy. That’s another good one for parents.
Favorite Beauty Product:
Aveda Botanical Kinetics. There’s no going back to drugstore face cream.
Favorite Form of Exercise:
Running. Mountain biking and skiing are fun also, but I have to focus (or face consequences)! When I’m running, I can get on long dusty road (ideally under a blazing hot sun) and just go. I love it.
What is on your DVR?
What’s a DVR? (People ask how I get so much done. Maybe that’s it— I have not watched a movie in ages.)
Moment. It tracks my iPhone use. Seriously – I pay for an iPhone and then I pay for an app to keep me off my iPhone.
Favorite Kids Store:
Polar Peeks Books & Treasures in Fernie, B.C. Here’s a question I never say no to: “Mom, can I get a new book?”