Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Problem with Education

And I don’t mean the problems in our public schools or the exorbitant costs of a post secondary education. Some people are lacking in their basic life skills. I am on a one woman crusade to remedy this. I am going to have cards printed that I can distribute to people in need. I’m just that kind of unselfish girl. I want to make a difference. Here are some samples:
You perhaps didn’t notice that as you got off the Skytrain (subway), the other 150 people were lining up at the escalator in an orderly fashion. I know you didn’t notice because you walked around all the other 149 people and cut the queue to the front. I was sure that you would want to know that you enter a line at the end.

Your helpful friend.


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You didn’t notice that when you were walking your dog today, he took a dump on our lawn. You seemed quite fascinated with looking at the sky, the neighbour’s driveway and your shoelaces. I know that if you had noticed, you would have picked it up, which I am sure you will do next time.

Your helpful friend.

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You perhaps don’t realize that when you speak on you cell phone on the train for the entire trip, pretty much all 90 people in the car can hear you talking about how drunk you were last night, what a @#!*% your ex wife is or how annoying the girl who sits next to you at work is as she makes personal calls all day. Just a tip, no one wants/needs/should be subjected to 30 solid minutes of drivel.

Your helpful friend.


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You didn’t realize that when you horked up that extremely large wad of phlegm and deposited it on the sidewalk some people don’t like that. Perhaps no one has ever told you that, as a general rule, people don’t want your phlegm on the bottom of your shoes.

Your helpful friend.
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I am open to other suggestions. This is only a start.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

From Tomboy to Princess


I have an aversion to a number of girlie things: Pink. Barbies. Ballet. Princesses. I think I always have.

I could never imagine joining my 10 year old classmates who would spend their Saturdays in pale pink tutus with hair in a tight bun. My 10 year old activities included hide and seek, tag and move-ups or scrub (you know softball where you ‘move up’ positions). Now I wasn’t athletically gifted (those that know me personally will have probably snorted your drink of choice out your nose at this understatement). My height peaked at just over 5 feet so I have no swiftness of feet. But this is how I chose to spend the after school hours and the long summer days. I also did not dream of being a princess or being swept off my feet by my prince charming.

As I matured to adulthood, I developed my own brand of feminism (topic for another post). Suffice it to say, being dependant upon or even waiting for prince charming (or any man) was not part of my manifesto.

When my daughter was born, I do admit to taking a certain delight in being able to dress her. But it was a couple years before I had, myself, purchased anything in pink. And when I did, it was usually a pink top to go with her hand-me-down boy overalls as I thought that was the perfect tomboy look for a 9 month old.

When S was two, people would ask me if I had her signed up for ballet. No, I said dismissively. Not my daughter. I cringed when anyone innocently called S a princess.

At close to 3 1/2, S told me she wanted to be a ballerina. She started doing pirouettes in the kitchen. With two decades of feminism under my belt, I felt ready to pass this on to my daughter. Why do you want to be a ballerina? You can be anything you know.

About a month later I looked into ballet classes. I made sure they were the more-social-than-dance-learning-to-listen type at the community centre. Having made the leap I decided to embrace my inner ballerina. S and I went to one of those dance stores and got her a dance outfit with built-in tutu. And pink ballet shoes. She is freakin’ adorable and well worth the compromise of feminist principles (and I might add is the only girl in purple, not pink). She took to dance and, despite being shy in large groups, loves the spotlight at the end of each class where they get to wear a tiara and do a dance alone for the adoring parents and caregivers in the audience.

The floodgates were pretty much opened and S now has all manner of things princess. Especially Disney princess. And most of them I bought her. She has doll things, dress-up outfits, pyjamas, books, jewelry, clothes, dishes and a few dozen other things all pink and princessy. She even has bedding complete with canopy (which we had to take down because she could get to sleep with that scary thing over her head). She is a bona fide princess in every sense of the word.

But with a brother less than 2 years older she still has more than a little bit of tomboy in her. She’s fond of J’s hand-me-down clothes and wants to be one of the boys when around J and his male buddies. She loves to play rough and tumble in the backyard with her Daddy and brother (though has been known to plaintively call "Daddy, carry me!!”).

She does not own even one Barbie. (Though my mother has my little-used Barbie and Ken in her basement that she threatens to repatriate.)

Where does this leave my principles? Well, I guess I’ll let S develop her own brand of feminism, much as I have. If she chooses to do this in a pale pink tutu at the side of her own prince charming, so be it. That is progress.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Chip off the Old Blogger

J. has written his own blog entry. I left it as written by the author. For those that need translation of grade 1 spelling:

diing = dying
sed = said
son = soon
loin = long

And there should be a period after chart. And then "The no's" as in the no votes. My rendition of similar encouter is recorded at Democracy in Action.

DIING FOR A DOG

One day I was diing to get a dog! Dad sed no! NO! I had to do something! I made a chart no had more! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! My dad sed in the spring that’s to loin! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wont it NOW!!! well? Ok in the spring. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Son. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in the spring son we got it! THE END.



Consequences

No, not another piece on my take on parenting rules. This is about my ill-advised adventure at the mall one day.

Some time ago, my kids needed haircuts. Since we’ve had some dodgy experiences with haircuts, I try to make is a positive experience, which is to say, I bribe my children. Since the ‘haircut store’ is at a big mall, it’s a briber’s utopia. Sometimes the kids get a ride on one of those lame coin-operated rides. Sometimes they get an ice cream cone.

On the fateful day, I opted for an item from the dollar store. They can pick anything worth one dollar. I had something else to pick up, so why not. Choosing the right item keeps them busy for 5 minutes, which is 5 minutes I don’t have to keep my naughty voice from coming out. And may keep them busy once we get home.

J is immediately drawn to the ‘stuffies’. (See Search and Rescue for further details) He has many and he is a serial stuffy lover. He is always very attached to stuffy-du-jour. He falls in love with a lame yellow bear. I know it’s likely stuffed with asbestos and soaked in arsenic and the fibres contain lead, but hey I told the kid he could spend his own dollar. S has picked her own treasure.

So we leave, clutching his treasured new friend, whom he names after himself. The rest of the day J & J are inseparable. Of course they sleep together and breakfast together the next day, Saturday. Feeling a parental high because both kids have nicely cropped lids (which is to say I don’t have to fight with J to put a few drops of water on the sticky-up parts on his hair), I decide a picture of the pair of them is in order. So, a family trip is planned to a nearby town where Superstore has a great studio portrait place. We combine the trip with a Dr. appointment for Husband and grocery shopping. Knowing to mix business with bribery, we suggest McDonalds for lunch and plan to end the day with a trip to the pet store. It’s all going well.

We are in parking lot at McDonalds, with just enough time to get to picture appointment and we hear a tortured cry. “WHERE IS J!?!” It seems J (the new yellow one) did not make the trip with us. J (the human one) is in full-blown nuclear meltdown. “I NEED J!!” My hopes of the cutest picture ever of my kids are dimming. “I want to go get him!!” He cannot be consoled. The entire family is working on the cause. S. offers “J is at home taking care of pink puppy”. “Let’s go home and get him!!” We are 5 minutes from the photo place and 30 minutes from home. “Let’s go home and get him!!” Retrieving asbestos J is not an option. “Let’s go home and get him!!”

After Husband and I have tried every soothing technique we know, I finally offer, not having learned my lesson, that we can get a new friend from a different dollar store. J dials it back to moaning and whimpering and consents to get buckled into the car. Remarkably, he does regain his composure in time for the pictures. He looked pretty darn handsome. Parenthetically, when I cry for one nanosecond my face looks blotchy, puffy and red for 24 hours. This kid’s face recovered in 5 minutes. Good skin is wasted on the young.

The pictures go well. Even grocery shopping goes well. We make our promised trip to the dollar store where J. picks out a gecko, whom he also names J. (it does get confusing). We make our last stop at the pet store and see exotic fish, all kinds of puppies and way too many smelly rodent-type creatures.

Husband and I can almost taste that glass of wine waiting at home as we load into the van. We’re not yet halfway home and we hear “WHERE IS J??” He means the latest J, the gecko. After an inch by inch quadrant search of the van, we determine that sadly, new-J. has been left behind. This time, we have no option. Husband swings around and we make our way back to the #%$&^%$$#@@# pet store to the sound of moans, groans, sobs and cries. J. was also upset. Gecko-J. was peacefully watching the clown fish, oblivious to the trouble he had caused.

You just never know what the fall-out will be from one Mommy’s trip to the haircut store.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Conventional Parenting Wisdom #3

[Caveat: I have absolutely no parenting credentials apart from parenting my own kids. I have no advanced degrees, published papers but have read many parenting books, usually late at night after a bad day or locked in the bathroom during a bad day. Those that have ever seen me in Walmart with my kids will know just how unqualified this makes me.]

The Conventional Rule: Ignore the tantrums, they will stop.
My Rule: Have wine on hand.

It’s a simple premise: kids want attention so they have tantrums. If you stop giving them attention they will stop having tantrums. Cause. Effect.

When J. was 2 he started having tantrums. They were rarely the “I want a 7th cookie and give it to me now or I’ll scream” kind that went away as soon as Barney came on TV. He often reacted to something (7th cookie) but ignoring didn’t do any good. He would continue. I’d leave to go to another (quieter) room and he pause, stand up and follow me to the new room, throw himself down on the floor and resume the tantrum position. This could go on for an hour. Or more. Eventually he’d fall asleep on the bathroom floor or wherever he landed and we’d put him to bed.

As he got older he would start throwing things until he got our attention by taking a chunk out of the drywall or we had to duck as Hot Wheels are angrily thrown about the room. Then we couldn’t ignore him and had to disarm or remove him to a safe place (usually his room where no toys are kept).

With time he learns if he affixed himself to me it slowed me down. So came my skills of walking around the house with a 4 year old strapped to one ankle. If I do say so myself, I got pretty good at it and I counted it as a workout, especially if I had to go up the stairs.

We tried everything we could think of to stop the tantrums while they happened: hugging an unwilling toddler, playing soft music, singing to him, sitting quietly beside him, reasoning, screaming, crying, tantruming ourselves (it was therapeutic but not very effective). At different stages we have tried different things and some work for a time but nothing ever s spun our sensitive J. boy out of his cycle. One thing I can say we did not do and that was give in, if the tantrum was even slightly related to J. wanting something or wanting to avoid something. (Though most creative attempts at resolving situations did come into play).

Even more, we didn’t have much luck in stopping them from happening. We did learn being too hungry means trouble. Or too tired. Or frustrated. Or bored. Or busy. Or happy. Or sad.

This all lead to my fascination with the parenting books. I’ve read more than a dozen and skimmed through about 100 in the book store aisle. There is no magic answer. All I know is that having a glass and wine and debriefing with Husband is about the best way to cope. It doesn’t have to be wine. Some Mommy girlfriends eat chocolate, ice cream, even sushi. One particularly skinny Mommy (which I hate her for) goes to the gym and is training for a triathalon.

I’ll stick with wine for now and leave the elite athlete training for the teenage years.