Category Archives: I'm just sayin'

Infant rules have expiry clauses, right?

I remember when Audrey was an infant, I was very very strict in following the ‘nothing in the crib but the baby and a blanket’ rule. We didn’t have those crib bumpers and we used a swaddling sack or sleep sack with her, to avoid her blanket covering her head by mistake. It was a matter of safety and doing what ‘they’ recommended. Some recommendations I think are exaggerated (like the warnings against co-sleeping, which I think can be safe with some basic precautions)  but this one seemed like good common sense to me.

Well, until she was old enough to get her little legs stuck in the crib slates, at which time I realized why bumpers were probably invented. We got those breathable mess things instead- let air through, but not little limbs. I hate middle of the night screaming due to limb stuck-age.

The only other things we ever had in her crib was a little ‘lovey’ (I know, I hate the term too, but I don’t know what else to call it) which was small and met the standards for still being safe.

Again, this was when Audrey was an infant.

We had a beautiful sheep skin sleep mat, which we didn’t use because the poster on the wall at the nurses office said it was dangerous. (Though, I am sure there are parents somewhere who have had generations sleep on the same type of mat, but admittedly, they probably co-sleep and are better able then to monitor that baby is safe.) Anyway, the point is, we followed the “rules.”

But somewhere between, Audrey’s first birthday and now, approaching Audrey’s second birthday, let’s just say that her crib has become a little less pristine. There is an expiry clause on that “there should be nothing in the crib” thing, right?

Because now, everything ends up in the crib and I seem powerless to fight it. There are multiple blankets, designated as “my blanket. MY blanket”. There is that sheep skin mat we feared before. There are books. There are stuffed animals. There was even a brush for one nap. “Audrey brush hair?” Sure kid, knock yourself out. I am sure her tooth brush is next.

Please tell me I am not alone!

It’s okay to let go, right? (rhetorical question. It has already happened.)

I think there are a lot of ‘rules’ like this in parenting. Things you aren’t suppose to do. Toys they shouldn’t play with. Foods they shouldn’t eat. Good common sense safety stuff.

The thing I think is interesting is that no one seems to say anything about when these ‘rules’ end. Obviously some don’t end (like putting a child in an age appropriate child seat). But others. Others end. Eventually a child can have nuts. Or eat an apple that isn’t cut up into little tiny pieces. Or be left alone in the tub. (Cause my Mom was never there in the bathroom with me when I took a bath when I was eight years old, for example). But when? When does these end? And how do you know?

My theory… it just happens. You just let go. Eventually. Not all at once.

Or you see some other kid of similar age doing just fine scarfing down a whole apple.

How do you know when is the right time to let go of those ‘rules’?

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Do Toddlers need to exchange Valentines Cards?

stars, hearts and crumbs - valentine's art project

(Photo by woodlywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Yesterday was all lovely dove-y… today I have a bit of a rant.

In short, in my opinion, no. Toddlers don’t need to exchange valentines day cards.

Yesterday, I went to pick up my not yet two year old from the Day-home. Now, the absolutely wonderful women who takes care of Audrey obviously really likes holidays. Or maybe she just likes the reason to make a couple days a year extra exciting for the kids. Or she has an intense love of crafts. Regardless, every holiday we get a homemade, toddler decorated card. Which is quite cute.

But along with our card this time was a little envelope of valentines day cards from some of the other kids. Now obviously I am not the only ‘bad’ Mom who didn’t even think of this.. there were only a couple cards. BUT. I thought we were still a good couple years away from Valentines Day cards.

But it brought to the forefront for me my feelings about Valentines Day and kids. Mainly that I think, at the very most it is totally unnecessary and at the very least it should be 90% kid led.

Valentines day is a hallmark holiday if I have ever seen one. My husband and I do use it as a good excuse to be extra nice to each other and plan a special day. Cause you can never get enough special days and extra excuses to be good to each other. Because when you’ve been together for almost 8 years and you have a toddler, you need all the excuses you can get.

But for kids? Especially toddlers who very likely didn’t say “Mother, I would like to hand out cards to every one of my friends. Could we please buy that package of Princess cards?” Here are my “con” arguments.

1) It is a waste of paper.

Now this might be a horrible thing to say. I am all for sharing loving sentiments with others and I love beautifully hand made cards. But when we are talking Valentines cards given by ‘toddlers’, we are talking those crappy perforated cards where the parent just fills in the “to” and “from”. It really seems like a waste of paper. We aren’t suppose to keep those are we? Cause ours went in the recycling bin.

2) It isn’t kid led.

We have had a fairly consistent view of holidays- they can be fun… but they should also be, at least in part, kid led. Same reason why Audrey hasn’t been to see Santa. Did she want to see Santa? Did she ask to give out Valentines day cards? At not even two years old, we wouldn’t be giving out Valentines cards for her, or even for her friends. We would be doing it for us or to show that we knew what one is ‘suppose’ to do as a parent. You know, I just wonder, who are we really doing this for? Correct me if I am wrong here.

It’s different with an older kid who ‘gets’ is and actually asks to participate actively in a holiday.

3) Commercialism

Just like everything else in the world of toddlers, every Valentines Day Card out there is Licensed Merchandise. Dora, Princess, Thomas, ect. ect. ect. It’s like an other big excuse to market to our kids and get them more deeply involved with the various characters they all become attached to. And you all know how I feel about that.

4) Obligatory ‘give one to everyone so no one is left out’ stuff

It’s not that I think it is great when some kid gets their feeling hurt because they were the only one in the class who didn’t get a card. I just think it is a rather pointless exercise for eveyone’s parents to buy every other parents kid in their kids class a valentines card (and often candy) on behalf of their child and exchange them. Why don’t we all just buy our own kids 25 cards and a bag of candy and be done with it? Because I know my kid needs candy and pictures of t.v. characters.

So, I am not doing Valentines cards. Until Audrey asks to and can write them and hand them out herself. Even better if she makes them, rather then pulling apart, along perforated edges, some Dora themed cards that come in packs of 20. And if she only wants to give them to 3 kids or all 40 she knows.. whatever. That is up to her.

Maybe my views on this will soften… they often do when faced with reality and peer pressure and you know, life. But right now, at first blush…. I am not a fan of this kids Valentines card thing.

In general, I don’t like ‘should’. I do believe in being kind and considerate and cognoscente of the impact of ones behaviours and choices on others.. but I think the world operates too much on us doing what we ‘should’ do, rather then being authentic and honest and doing what we want to do. I don’t like all the conventions.

Now, before you all roast me on a spit, I don’t think ill of anyone who does ‘do’ the valentines thing. I know it is done with the best intention. Sometimes we need an opportunity to remind each other that we mean something to each other. The parents who do send their kids with cards and candy or whatever, I assume do so because the kids probably like it and everyone is happy and why the heck not?

I am just a big cynic, that’s all.

Am I being a no fun, ridiculous, bah humbug? Do you think Toddlers should exchange Valentines Cards?

Open Letter to WestJet and those other airlines

Dear WestJet (and any other airline who might care to listen),

Flying with small children sucks. It sucks for the parents and it sucks for your other customers. And I hear you are all about your customers. You tell jokes. You make things simple. You know how to communicate with customers and show them that you value their business.

Do you think you could come up with something that might make flying with small children a little easier? Please?

Here is my suggestion:

Create a ‘family’ section on the plane and advertise it as such. Put anyone who has an infant ticket in this section and let anyone else who is selecting seats in that section know where it is. Encourage parents with preschoolers/primary school kids to book into this section.

This will do a number of things. For one- parents are very understanding of other parents. Cause we get it. We have all been there. And we can suffer together. And maybe our kids might be able to distract each other.

Secondly- those people who hate children and think they shouldn’t be allowed to fly- they can self select to seat far on the other end of the plane. No more dirty looks or heaving sighs.

Then you can advertise that you are doing something to make customers- all customers- happy.

Win- Win?

I’d like to make other suggestions, like giving parents with infants priority on having an empty seat in their row- but that would probably be going to far and may not be seen as ‘fair’ for all. Which- fair enough. Even though it would totally rock. Especially for those 1-2 year old ‘infants’ that really just hate sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap for 1, 2, 3, 4 hours. But I am pretty sure this is just a pipe dream. So I will stick with pushing for a family section.

What do you think readers?  Could it work? Should we start a petition?

My Weekly Work Out

So, every since New Years, I have been beating myself up about not exercising. Cause, well, I don’t. And I should. Blah blah blah.

And then last night I got home, after a trip to the grocery store and realized something.

This. This is my weekly work out. (I know, your suppose to work out more then once a week, but trust me, it’s a start).

Think about it.

Warm up/ mental preparation. Check.

 

Photo by Bruce Turner via Flickr Creative Commons License

Obstacle Course. Check.

Photo by SMN via Flickr Creative Commons Liscense

Strategy. Check.

Photo by Stephen Cummings via Flickr Creative Commons

Speed Test. Check.

Photo by katerha via Flickr Creative Commons License

Weight Lifting. Check.

Endurance. Check.

See! It’s practically a sport. And a rather challenging one at that. Although, unlike other sports, it is not particularly fun. But I rarely find exercising ‘fun’.

Anyway, just thought I would share my random thoughts with you. Happy Friday.

How we talk to kids matters

I was listening to Cross Country Check up yesterday. It’s a Canadian Radio show on CBC, hosted by Rex Murphy. People call in and discuss current issues on air. This weeks show was about a new publication of Huckleberry Finn with some of the words and content changed to remove language and content deemed to be offensive given the modern context. A girl called in, 10 years old, who has read the book and wanted to share her opinion that the book should be left as is.

What struck me though was how different Rex Murphy spoke to this 10 year old then how he spoke to his other guests. It bothered me. It even offended me. I had to turn it off.

I believe he was just trying to engage with her with the best of intentions, but the tone came off condescending. He acted surprised (fake surprised) when she said she had read the book. He asked her whether her parents thought it was a good book. Really, it wasn’t so much what he said, but the way he said it. It sounded just patronizing.

Sometimes the way people talk to children bothers me. It’s not really any of my business. I really believe that most of the times when I am offended, it really isn’t intentionally condescending, it just feels that way to me. But it still bothers me and has gotten me thinking about that way I think we should talk to children. In my opinion, anyway.  And as a personal confession, I am sure I talked at times in ways that, if I had recorded and played back, would have bothered me to hear myself. I think sometimes it is hearing it in others conversations that we start to hear how odd and kinda wrong it sounds.

It is not so much about the content of the conversation. There is certainly something to be said for age appropriate content to a conversation. Obviously explaining war, disease and famine to a two year old is not appropriate. There is certainly a discussion to be had around age appropriate content in conversation. But this post is more about tone of conversation then the content.

Here is how I think we ‘should’ talk with kids”:

I think we should genuinely engage in rather then ‘humor’ kids with the conversation. Kids can spot falseness 20 miles away. They may not be able to put their finger on it or explain what it is they are hearing, but I suspect they feel that they are being humored. I think when we speak to children we need to be genuinely interested in what they have to say and really hear them out. Ask real questions. Genuine questions that will help you understand what they are saying and trying to share with you.

We should listen more then we praise. A lot of times when I see non-parental figures talking with kids, I see them pay them a compliment. “Wow, aren’t you just a polite little boy/girl”. Which is well intentioned. But I think it does more to show a child they are valued by really listening to them, then by paying them an empty compliment. Engaging them in a really discussion on a topic they find interesting does far more to help them know they have something of worth to say. I believe kids thoughts, opinions and beliefs are often brushed off or pushed aside. They want to be heard. So listening can mean more to them then a compliment.

We should have real reactions. I know with really little kids we (at least in many people I have witnessed, including myself) have a tendency to want to exaggerate emotions like excitement. I clap and cheer like a crazy person when my daughter uses the potty. I suspect we do that to help them learn about emotions and their meaning. But I think sometimes we can, especially with older kids, take that a bit too far. Again, kids sense a fake tone of voice. When we feign surprise to try and make them feel they have done something special I suspect the child knows its not genuine.

I really think we need to value a child’s unique perspective. They are not just a younger adult with less knowledge. They see the world often quite differently then we do. I think there is really value in trying to connect with that and really hear what they have to say. There is an assumption out there that we can’t learn from children- we know more. I believe that assumption is wrong. I think if we approach the conversation with a child really recognizing that we can learn something from them, it goes a long way to demonstrate respect for them.

And lastly, I think we need to still remember that we are the adult. What I mean by that, is obviously, if we hear a child saying something unkind about someone or saying something inappropriate, we still have the responsibility to respectfully correct them. Having respect and having a genuine conversation, doesn’t mean we don’t still have an obligation to support our children to learn good values and good behaviour.

I believe talking with true respect to children is important. I think it fosters children who know they have something worthwhile to say and offer. It allows us, as adults, to hear and learn what they are experiencing and about their unique perspective.

So please Rex, no more of the ‘patting on the head’ conversations, okay?

ControverSunday: The holiday edition

Ho Ho Ho.

So now that we have all been steeping in holiday cheer since November 1st.. as the lights and music and gift commercials hit us in full force the day after Halloween… how are we all feeling about this holiday stuff?

This month’s ControverSunday is an open invitation to talk about anything holiday related that you find controversial. Haven’t played before? No problem. All you have to do is write up your post, toot-suite, and come over here for the link up. Don’t forget to grab your badge from Accidents. And then you are set! Didn’t have a chance to post? No problem! Join via commenting on others great posts!

Okay, now lets get to it.

badges

Our Lady of Perpetual Breadcrumbs

The Arbolog

The Cheeseblog

Tortoise on the Loose

Ramble Ramble

I was thinking about what most bothers me about the holiday season. I don’t mean to sound like a BahHumbug.. I LOVE Christmas… it is just that when it comes to controversial holiday topics, there are a bunch. So this might turn into a couple posts. Cause here are the things I was thinking about.

  • The insanely long and drawn out season
  • The consumer focus and spoiling of our kids
  • How it must make everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas feel to have everything taken over for close to 2 months
  • Do you or don’t you ‘do’ Santa with your kids. (Kelly Naturally had a great post on this a couple weeks ago… check it out.)

If I wrote about all these things this post would be a couple thousand words or more. So I am going to pick two and then if the others aren’t covered by the other ControverSunday authors, or if the posts got me thinking and I have something else to say, I might post again next Sunday.

And the winners are……

The insanely long and drawn out season & Do you or don’t you ‘do’ Santa.

First off, the long season really bothers me. I get that Christmas is the biggest retail season of the year. And I get it makes economic sense to spread it out as long as possible. (Which also leads to people hiding gifts they bought in the first week of November, and then either forgetting they bought them or forgetting where they hid them and then buying more things the second week in December in a holiday induced brain fog.) I get that.

But I hate it. With. A. Passion. I used to work in retail. And if you think it is annoying to listen to the same Christmas songs for the 5 hours you spend in the mall over the course of the entire Christmas season, then try listening to them for the 300 hours you would listen to them while working overtime for the entire Christmas season. Barf.

And I love Christmas music. I love signing. I love Caroling. I do. But really. The moment the Halloween decorations are put away? I know in the U.S. I hear it is better because most don’t start ‘doing’ Christmas until after U.S. Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is early in October, so we don’t have the natural season change over marker. But it seems to me that Christmas has crept up earlier and earlier on the calendar. American friends, can you confirm?

It just makes it not so special, in my opinion. I was appalled with myself that I decorated before December 1st. I usually try to wait until the 15th. Cause I like it to be special. I like to enjoy the music and the lights and the decorations… not get sick of them before the ‘big day’ ever arrives.

I guess that falls into the category of ‘pet peeve’; not holiday controversy.

Anyway. On to perhaps the more ‘important’ topic. Will we ‘do’ the Santa thing with Audrey?

Kelly writes in her post:

“Really, the spirit of Santa is okay with me. It’s more the concocting layers of false “evidence” (cookies half eaten, left by the fireplace, “footprints” in the snow, etc.), in order to convince children (who by their very nature are very literal and want to believe their parents) of the really realness of Santa, that rubs me the wrong way. I prefer to just treat him as part of the holiday landscape that he is, without creating stories; without eroding trust.”

So I guess the question is will we be eroding trust if we choose to keep up with the fantasy of Santa? I mean, I think Kelly has a point. It is a form of lying. And some parents go to great lengths to ‘keep the story alive.’ Is that fair? Will she be disappointed when she finds out the truth? I mean, by the time she is like 4 she will be able to google I suspect…. More so, will she feel betrayed by me?

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that I think there are many many many kids who grow up with the story and myth of Santa and don’t end up with any trust erosion with their parents. Part of me even feels that part of growing up is realizing your parents are not perfect. Part of growing up is unmasking the mystery of child-hood and seeing the world for what it really is. Full of contradiction and, well, disappointment.

But should I engage in something that is an active choice to deceive?

So here is what I think we will do. Audrey can believe in Santa if she wants to believe in Santa. She will hear about it from other kids, she will ask what all the fuss is about at the mall. And if she wants to go visit Santa, then we will go visit Santa. *warning, I am about to get controversial here.* I am not taking her to see Santa until she requests it. I can only guess that if we took her this year she would flip right the heck out, as being placed in a strangers lap is not her idea of a good time. And honestly kinda makes me feel queasy– shouldn’t it be her choice to be that close to a stranger… not something I do for the sake of a picture? It just doesn’t seem to be very respectful to her to force her into that situation. (Really, I don’t mean to judge if you are all over the Santa pictures.. to each their own. It just makes me uncomfortable for my kid.) If she never asks to see Santa, then we will never go to see Santa.

If she asks to write Santa a letter or leave out cookies, then we will do that. And if she asks questions I will answer them as honestly as I can, while respecting that I don’t want her to be the bearer of bad news to all the other kids. I like Kelly’s idea of asking questions to let your kid come to their own conclusions. I will play along to the extent that Audrey wants to play along. I am going to try to take her lead. To me, that is letting her believe until she no longer wants to believe. I remember as a child knowing Santa wasn’t real, but playing along because I liked the idea of it. I never felt betrayed. But my parents never made a really big deal of it either. So I think that is our plan.

What about you?

I was going to write….

I was going to write something interesting, intelligent, riveting. You know, my usual fare. (Ha! HA!)

But I just spent 3 hours in traffic. So I am going to whine about random things that annoyed me today and random annoying things I started thinking about while thinking about those random things that annoyed me. Sounds like fun eh? So excited to read on, aren’t you?

Wait, Wait! Isn’t there a blogging meme invented just for this reason? Well, maybe not the whining, but the randomness?

randomtuesday

Oh thank goodness. Hi Keely, over at The Un Mom I thought I’d play along. Hope that’s okay.

  • Winter traffic sucks. Normally I try not to complain about traffic, because really Calgary isn’t that bad. At least not in comparison to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. (Not to mention many major U.S. cities). So I kinda scoff when people complain about Calgary traffic.
  • But 3 hours in it gives me the right to complain I think. Winter traffic sucks. Black ice. Drivers doing one of two totally annoying things: going way to fast or way to slow. Good times.
  • Take that an add in screaming poopy (don’t worry, only for the last 20 minutes) toddler demanding: Daddy? Water? Milk? Grandma? Snack? Elmo? Cheese? SNACK?! DADDY?!! CHEESE!!? MILK?!! GRANDMA?!! ! ELMO?!!  RASINS!?? WATER??!! Peter Rabbit? Repeat that for about 2 hours. Fun.
  • I got to hand it to the toddler though, she did much better then I would have strapped into a seat while hungry, bored and thirsty.
  • You might ask why we didn’t stop. Trust me we tried. But we were on highways, you know. And always in the wrong lane. Eventually we did. Pita made the situation all better.
  • Did you know that Calgary was the second coldest place on earth today? I am not even kidding
  • You know what I hate even more then driving in the winter? Parking in the winter. You get just a little bit of snow on the ground and no one can see those stupid yellow lines and it turns into the wild wild west. Artistic parking creations to some, maybe. But completely annoying. Especially with Calgary’s tendency for BIG PICKUP TRUCKS. Because there is a strong likelihood that one will park one lane over in a way that makes it impossible to back out of the parking spot as the lanes shift one way or the other.
  • I have a lot of laundry to fold. See:
  • I am not going to fold it.
  • Because I don’t want to. I would rather drink wine.
  • My husband took various forms of bus, train and taxi cab home today. Because we were already stuck in traffic so long that if we went to get home we probably wouldn’t get home until 9pm.
  • I sent him out for wine anyway. I feel like a bit of jerk. But he likes wine too.

Okay, I think I am out of random thoughts. Were they random enough? Kinda united by a general “I’m grumpy” theme, I guess. Anyway, my wine is calling.

What I learned from T.V. about Parenting Judgement and Guilt

Do you ever watch “Parenthood”? It is one of my favourite shows on T.V. Mostly because I wonder if they have hidden cameras in our house. The emotions and experiences of the parents, struggling to be the best parents they can be while still being human (ie. flawed), are so real. It is one of those shows on T.V. where the dialogue is so real and so moving. Even experiences I haven’t had as a parent (yet) I totally relate to their reactions and emotions.

But the last couple times I watched it, (along with some of the discussion on my “Pick em up, Put em down” post and some other posts I have read and that Erica Jong article and the reaction to it, ect. ect.), I have been thinking about the parenting archetypes the show (and other forms of media and social media) portrays.

I believe that how the media (including blogs and other forms of social media) portrays parents has a big impact on a) how we see ourselves and b) how we see (and perhaps sympathize, judge, or understand) other parents.

Probably the most common parenting (and one of the most bothersome, in my opinion) is the clueless, disengaged Dad. You know, Homer Simpson-esque? And like every Dad on a commercial where the Dad is the butt of the joke. This archtype really bothers me. Like a lot. Not that there aren’t kinda clueless Dads out there, just like there are clueless Mom’s. But it does such a disservice to all the amazing Dad’s out there to have everyone assume they are clueless, because the media tells us that all Dad’s are clueless.

On Parenthood, this archtype is played by the Grandfather of the show, and they do a really really good job of humanizing this character. It is not as offensive to me because he is so real, caring, loving and really trying to be a great father and grandfather. He knows he is flawed. He feels regret and guilt. Just like all of us do sometimes.

One of the other archetypes on the show is that of the controlling, high powered, working Mom. It is that character that often makes me shake my head and wonder- maybe I do that sometimes… hmmm…. is that what that looks like to everyone else? Again, because of how real the characters and the emotions of the show are I feel both sympathy for the characters, as well as being able to relate to them. So when they do something ‘wrong’, it causes me not to see them as the ‘other’, not to judge them or say ‘I would never do that’ (even if that is the case), but instead to use it as a lens to question my own parenting.

And along with the typically parenting archetypes; the perfect does-it-all Dad, the worried about everything slightly too involved Mom, the all fun and no seriousness Dad who needs to grow up, the Mom who is struggling to find herself, her career, her partner…; there is also a stay at home Dad– presenting a much needed perspective on something that far fewer men than women do. Showing it not only as real, but also as coming with it’s own set of challenges.

Again, I like these depiction of parenting archetypes; these characters. They are real. They are complex. They seems to cover the spectrum of how parents are portrayed in society, and makes them less like archetypes and more like real people.

I also value the archetypes they didn’t include. The ones I am not sure really exist all that much, except in the minds of those who portray them. The parenting scapegoats of society.

The lazy, disengaged, yelling, selfish Mom who never holds her child and leaves them to scream while sipping her glass of wine.

The coddling, never put their baby down till their 3, never let the kid out of a meter’s range, no boundaries or discipline, no use of the word ‘no’, martyr Mom.

If we are really honest, those two archetypes are often what is portrayed in the media and the world of social media. The two extremes on a huge spectrum with no consideration for what is in between. And I don’t even think it is intentional. It is all part of that ‘easier to make an argument when you build it against a strawmanwomen’ thing, along with our tendency to stereotype the ‘other’. It is not a coherent and coordinated attempt. But when we hear over and over again about all these mothers who let their babies scream for hours on end without batting an eye or mothers who provide no boundaries what-so-ever and spend the first 5 years always within 10 meters of their kid– well those images add up. And all the milder versions of those images make us think of the extreme– those add up too.

I get that many people feel that they have met women like that, while others feel that those parenting archtypes are a myth. There is no way to argue on that point, it is a she said/he said/she said/ he said argument. I have no idea who you know and what those people are like. I can only speak to who I know and what those people are like.

But I do believe most real people exist in the middle. And even if they don’t, they are real, complex individuals. With whom if we met and got to know for long enough; if we strove to really understand them; if we could take a peek into how they feel; the guilt and love and trying to do their best and not always doing their best and flawed human that they are; we would have sympathy, not judgment.

Yes. That is what I learned from T.V. about parenting judgment and guilt. When we catch a glimpse in the real emotions and real lives and real trials of any parenting, regardless of what category they most closely fall into, it is hard to judge. So let’s just not.

And let’s provide a space for nuance and humanity in our descriptions of parenting styles and choices we don’t agree with. Just for kicks.

Thoughts on Adult Education

Have a mentioned that I am taking classes? I know, all kinds of crazy over here. A perk of working on a university campus is that I have course fees as a part of my benefits package. So I thought, what the hell?

I am taking a Human Resources certificate program that will allow me to apply to get a Certified Human Resources Professional designation. Sounds good right?

I was on my way home from class the other night. Waiting at the bus stop. It was like a flash back to ten years ago when I started my undergraduate degree. And while I was waiting there I over heard a student complaining to a friend about a mid term test grade she received. It went a little something like this: ‘I can not believe they gave me a D+. My instructor said I did great on one part of the test. But then, in the written section I lost all the marks because I didn’t number each question and instead answered it in paragraph form. My teacher didn’t even read it, they just gave me no marks because they couldn’t be bothered to go through and read to see I had all the answers there.”

Here is the crappy thing about university/continuing education level teaching- sometimes it becomes more about the marks then the learning. It is certainly possible that this student didn’t read the instructions and it clearly said to answer each question in point form. And it is even more possible that the instructor has a full course load and no teaching assistant and 150 students in each class and there is no way they could possibly read each students exam if they all wrote it in paragraph form.

But it doesn’t really matter does it? This conversation said something to me about how adult education works. Check the boxes. Get the marks. Define the terms. Get the grade. Learning is not always about actually learning.

The course I am taking is interesting. It is about how people behave and function in organizations, something I find fascinating. Our instructor has a background in adult learning and she fills the class with lots of discussion and group activity. Which is valuable.

But we still have that definition dense, theory thick, no application of theory $125 text book that we have to read 3 chapters a week to keep up with the condensed nature of this course.  I am sorry, I find so little value in that. The value of education is in critical thinking, application and developing skills. But courses so often focus on learning stuff… not what to do with that stuff.

And yet these course and certificates look good on a resume. So we do them.

That is not to say there isn’t something valuable about adult education. There is. But it would be a lot more valuable in my opinion if the course content was boiled down, skill focused and to the point. Don’t overwhelm us with terms to memorize and theories to recall. Help us apply, think and question.

Random thoughts about bullying

(*Okay, every time I re-read this post to edit it seems to get longer and longer as I add things to try and clarify and no cause a misunderstanding. I give up. I am just going to accept that I can avoid the fact that someone will probably take this the wrong way. But they are my thoughts, so cest la vive! I am posting.)

This topic, spurred on by recent press, has done the blog circuit. And as per usual, I am late to the party. But that has never stopped me before, why should it stop me now?

Let me be clear, first off, that no one, no child, adolescent or adult, deserves to be tormented based on their sexual orientation, race, religious beliefs, political beliefs, moral beliefs, age, family situation, abilities or lack of ability, color of their skin, money in their bank account or location of their home. Not cool.

That being said, there are a couple things that bother me about this whole discussion that I have seen surrounding this issue. The solutions I have been hearing and the way we paint the picture about what is happening says something, I think, about what our expectations are for social interaction and what we value as good. First off:

1) What is wrong with being alone?

Remember how I have said that I think our experiences deeply impact how we view life? Well, I can tell you that during my childhood I experienced pretty much the same thing over and over again when it came to social interaction. I would join a ‘group’, said group would love me, then one person would decide they don’t like me and I was ousted from the group. Wash, rinse and repeat throughout elementary, junior high and high school. Now I am sure I wasn’t not totally innocent in this cycle- I had/have a tendency to be bossy (just ask my poor husband) among other personality faults that I am sure contributed to this, but none the less… This continued until the last year of high school where I said ‘screw em’ and spent most lunch hours in the library reading, as books didn’t tend to turn on you after a couple of months. Now that sounds like sour grapes, but I can tell you that experience did a lot to help me become the person I am– a person I quite like.

My point is that it bothers me that every time we talk about a kid alone on the playground we assume that that is a bad thing. What I can tell you is that as much as it sucked to teased and ousted as I was sometimes, there is a certain strength that comes from realizing you are okay on your own. You don’t need someone else to make you happy. You can enjoy your time by yourself. I truly believe it is one of lives great lessons that we all have to realize that happiness comes from within, not from validation from the people around you.

Don’t get me wrong, we all still need friends. It is not like I want to trivialize the pain of being cast out socially or to suggest everyone should sign themselves up for such an experience. But I guess I wish we didn’t stereotype and label the ‘loners’. I have always been the type to have a small handful of close friends rather then a long laundry list. There is nothing wrong with this. There is nothing wrong with being alone. I think this tendency to portray those with fewer friends negatively makes the situation worse. You don’t need to have 250 friends on facebook to prove that you are worthwhile as a person. You are worthwhile as a person because you are. And you like yourself because you have good qualities. Period. There is nothing wrong with being the kid with just a few friends.

2) Growing Pains

While I agree with the frustration I have read from some who have experienced quite sever forms of bullying in their childhood that they don’t want the experience to be brushed off as ‘just a part of growing up’ or ‘character building’, I do think we need to accept as a society that we all go through crap throughout our lives. Life is not meant to be easy. In fact, I would argue that when it comes to emotional trauma, most of us are very lucky living in North America and not in some war zone somewhere. Imagine the trauma those kids go through. This doesn’t make bullying okay. I REPEAT: that doesn’t make bullying okay or something we should just grin and bare. I am not saying that meaning to put experiences on a scale from bad to worse and therefore down play the pain of being bullied. But it does mean that we are who we are today because of our experiences. I am always so inspired by people who have been able to use very painful and horrible experiences to give them strength and purpose, rather then continuing to let themselves be victimized by the experience.

I do think we need to change our expectations about life– bad things, upsetting things, hard things and heartbreaking things will happen to all of us. It is what we do with them that matters. I think we spend too much time trying to avoid pain and not enough time dealing, facing and making the best out of pain.

3) Not everyone likes me and a I willing to bet that not everyone likes you.

Let’s be really honest here. There are people that don’t like me. And there are people I don’t like. I am willing to bet there are people that don’t like you. That is life. Sometimes our reasons for not liking someone are reasonable ones; someone who is unkind, not genuine, not interested in the same things, self involved, ect. And sometimes our reasons are not reasonable; we don’t like how they dress, we don’t understand them because they are different from us, we have made an incorrect assumption about them, or we are threatened or jealous or whatever. As much as I wish this weren’t the case, some people don’t like people because of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, mental health or ethnicity. And, to be quite honest there are also people who are just plain jerks. I believe every human being has good within them, but people writ large- well there are a lot of not nice people out there.

But none of those things justify bullying. What they do speak to, however, the reality of life. Humans are social creatures. And by social, I don’t mean just pleasant socializing. I mean we work to establish social structure. And part of social structure is hierarchy, rules, control and authority. I know that many social movements try to fight against this, and I am all for changing up the rules of society so that authority and power is not concentrated among one gender, race, age, religious group, ect. But to deny that power, authority and control are not fundamental features of social interaction, that aren’t going away, is naive in my opinion.

No one knows this more then a teenage girl. The typically stereotype of a bully is the boy who threatens and steals everyone’s lunch money. But when it comes to threats, intimidation and manipulation, teenage girls wrote the book.

4) Solutions.

My point in sharing my thoughts on all of the above has to do with what I think the solutions are to the problem of bullying. A lot of what I have seen talked about seem to want to create a world where everyone likes everyone, no one is teased, ever. Where all the kids hold hands and sing kumbiaya. But to me, this is so not the solution, because it goes against behaviours that are totally natural. Kids, teenagers and adults alike work within a complex system of social structure. Trying to get humans to all be nice to each other- well it just isn’t going to happen. Call me a cynic. So, do we just throw our hands up and give up when it comes to bullying?

No. But I think we need to change our expectations and focus on the real issue. First off, our expectations should not be that everyone will get along and no one will get left out, teased, or pushed aside. We have a tendency in North America to try and shield our children from all possible forms of pain or hurt– and it just isn’t a realistic expectation– those emotions and experiences are part of life. I would argue, in fact, that experiencing bad things makes you appreciate the good things in life.

That being said, what we can expect, both of our kids and ourselves, that we learn to communicate and interact with each other in a way that is respectful. You can dislike someone without being cruel. I believe the real issue here is all about confidence and maturity. What bully’s, their victims and the silent bystandards have in common is a lack of confidence. Bully’s bully to build themselves up and try to gain power. Victims have a hard time standing up to bully’s because they feel powerless. And bystandards are afraid to say anything because they don’t want to bully to turn on them. And let’s be really honest here- the victims and the bullies both need help and support. Happy, confident, well adjusted people don’t tend to bully. My issue is that our societies reaction to bullying- to try and get everyone to like each other and play with each other and to pepper our kids with ‘good work’ and ‘you are awesome’ to build them up only makes the situation worse. Because it takes away the opportunity for our kids to develop true self-esteem. The kind of self-esteem that can only come from within. The kind of self-esteem that lets you, well not avoid the hurt that can come from someone not liking you or saying an unkind word, not let that shake your confidence in the value of yourself.

The more people who have inner strength and true self confidence, the less bullying there will be. There will still be teasing, unkind words, feeling left out, and all the other feelings that come with social interaction. But there will be less crossing the line. The question is, how do we get there?

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