Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 04.14.08
Stanstead, Quebec


Sigh me a river

STANSTEAD, QC | As a barometer of inner peace and contentment, it probably doesn't bode well that I've become a sigher. Sighing has become my preferred reaction to the world as it unfolds around me. Or at me.

From minor irritations to count-to-ten boilers, my body is unconsciously expelling great lungsful of air -- si-i-i-i-igh -- possibly as a non-verbal expression of frustration or perhaps as some kind of coping mechanism to keep me from crumpling into a blubbering heap. Given the alternative, I think we can all agree that the sighing, though somewhat unnerving, is the preferred response.

What exactly makes me sigh? I've been monitoring myself lately and have discovered the main trigger:

My children.

But, you say, you've had children for years. Why now?

I've thought about this and I think it's because, at 42, I'm entering an age of reason. My children, on the other hand, are obstinately stuck in an age of unreasonableness. I'm grumpy, they're jumpy.

I mean, really, must children be so childish?

More to the point, do they have to play basketball in the house even when I tell them not to play basketball in the house and go so far as to take the ball away, only to have it reappear the next day so we can go through the whole routine of me saying, "Don't play basketball in the house," and them saying, "Why not?" and me saying, "You know why," and them saying, "We won't break anything," and me saying, "Yes, you will," and them saying, "No, we won't" and then me taking the ball away again.


And then there are the magical dishes. These are dirty plates and bowls and cups stacked high in the sink that apparently only I can see, because when I come home from work and tell my son who's been home for over an hour that, honestly, he could have washed them, he says he didn't notice them.

And Grade 1 homework that the teacher says should take twenty minutes, tops, but inevitably takes an hour and a half, including a 24-page book in French about a boy whose older brother always teases him for crying until one day the boy catches his big brother crying and so calls his big brother a baby and, hey, the boy feels so much better.

Huh? We spent an hour of struggle and bilingual frustration to learn what? That nothing soothes humiliation like humiliating others?


Actually, my kid in Grade 1 is the biggest sigh trigger of the bunch, not only because when we're rushing to get ready for school she rejects the chosen outfit because they're not "girl clothes," but also due to conversations like this:

"Do you know, at school today, I was sad because we had to buy surprises and I didn't have any money."

"What do you mean? Buy surprises from who?"

"From my teacher."

"Why would your teacher make you buy surprises from her? If you have to buy it, it's not really a surprise."

"No, you don't understand. We were supposed to have money and I didn't have any."

"Who said you were supposed to have money? Start from the beginning, you're not explaining yourself well."

"The surprises! We were allowed to buy them!"

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"Urrgh! Never mind!"



I thought this sighing might be permanent. And then last weekend, as the sun emerged and the slush was no longer ankle-deep, I noticed I wasn't sighing as much. Which made me think, maybe this isn't permanent. Maybe I'm just extra-sensitive due to the long winter. Maybe I have SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder, or in my case, SAID - Stuck Inside with Annoying Demons.

So here's my plan. It's getting warmer outside, right? So now, when the kids start bickering because one of them's "breathing funny" and the other one's "hogging the cushions" and the third one's appalled at us because we're coddling the fourth one by racing to find new "girl clothes," I'll just kick ‘em outside. And then it'll be perfectly quiet in here. And I'll sink into a comfy chair and be overwhelmed by inner peace and contentment.