The Other Parents

Playground Etiquette

Please refer to this instructional manual for parks, jungle gyms, splash pads, and basically anywhere your children might be playing near mine.

1) Watch your children.
I know we all get distracted from time to time. But your children are YOUR responsibility. Not mine. Unless you are paying me $35 a day to be responsible for your kids then buck up and fulfill the most basic of parenting rules. Watch your children!

You need to be aware if your kids are doing something that is potentially dangerous (to themselves and/or other children). I mean kids are kids and even the best of them sometimes have a lapse in common sense and etiquette. Its only natural. And how can you manage your children if you are not watching them? Seriously, I am watching them and if your little “darling angel perfect pants” slaps my kid you better believe I will see it.

2) Manage your children.
If you do see your child misbehaving, please DO SOMETHING. And I don’t mean laugh when your kid is climbing up the down side of the slide, making five other kids (who are using the slide appropriately) wait anxiously at the top for a turn to go down. And I don’t mean wait until your kid makes another kid cry…or dear me is ‘disciplined by me for making my kid cry’. If your kid screws up tell them they are doing something wrong and show them how they should behave. And show the other parents that you are in control of your kid and handling any mini crisis with grace and dignity. Because believe me. If you aren’t we are ALL aware that you are an asshole. And we won’t let our kids play with your kids. And your kids will have a hard time making friends on the playground.

3) If you miss a beat, don’t sweat it. Just apologize.
We are human. We all miss things now and then. If you don’t see your kid throw sand in my kids face I won’t be angry if when you see me telling your kid not to throw sand in my kids face you just apologize and tell your kid not too throw sand. Seriously, let’s back each other up here. Parenting is not always easy and we all know it. If I didn’t see my kid steal your kids toy, but noticed you making her give it back and apologize, I would back you up. “Sorry I didn’t catch that. Thanks.” And you better believe I will set my kid straight.

Bad Words

I’m going to take a moment here to talk about bad words.  And I don’t mean curse words. I mean words that are thrown around with what I see as reckless abandonment of common sense.

 Word #1: Judgement

If you try to tell me or my kids not to judge people be warned…I am judging you and I am teaching my kids to judge you.  What is with this anti-judgment movement? Are we as a society trying to raise a culture of fools? We need to judge others. For one, how else will you be able to distinguish between people you want to associate with and people you don’t.  And don’t expect me to follow the foolish and impossible idea that we should all want to be friends with everyone. There is nothing wrong with meeting someone and saying to yourself “No thanks.  Not my type.” Second, how are we going to protect ourselves from people who seek to do us harm or people who will inadvertently do us harm through foreseeable ignorance? There are some seriously bad people out there and we need to be able to ascertain who they are to protect ourselves  (and our children) from them.

I say judge people. Judge often and with no guilt. But judge wisely and with as little bias as possible. Accept that you might be wrong and be willing to adjust your judgement as needed. But never be afraid to judge someone.  And let us teach our children to judge wisely instead of raising them under the misguided and dangerous belief that everyone is to be given the benefit of the doubt and second…third…fourteenth chances.

 

Word #2 Acceptance 

Okay so…I accept that everyone is not going to agree with my opinions. That, I would argue, is a reasonable use of the term acceptance. I am comfortable with the idea that there will be many people who disagree with me. Doesn’t bother me one bit. But people seem to throw the word acceptance around in not so ”acceptable” ways. For example, the Serenity Prayer;

”O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed,The courage to change what can be changed,and the wisdom to know the one from the other”

That’s great if what you cannot change is your husband hating anchovies…so your favourite pizza topping will never be ordered because Somebody just refuses to like anchovies.”….maybe that’s just me….but sure. My husband not liking anchovies is something I really just need to accept. Homophobia is not. I don’t care if I cannot change every homophobes mind. I know I can’t. But I refuse to view homophobia as an acceptable belief. Hells no. I think the serenity prayer should be changed to

”Oh Universe, give me the serenity to accept that I cannot change everything, the courage to want to change everything, and the wisdom to know where the boundaries lie.”

I know I can’t wipe homophobia off the planet. But I certainly don’t have to accept it, I can’t even bring myself to tolerate it…which brings me to my final word.

Word #3 Tolerance

I tolerate hiccups. They are aggravating but not harmful to anyone. But tolerance seems to be spouted in really inappropriate ways…an awful lot. I get that we all have to tolerate some beliefs and actions of others…but Assholes exist and how dare anyone tell me I have to tolerate them. I will not. And how dare my society tell me how great we are to be so tolerant. There is a fine line between tolerance and apathy and I am having a hard time distinguishing whether we are an appropriately tolerant society…or just apathetic. If your belief is harmful to ANYONE then I will not tolerate it. If your opinion is one coming from a place of hate then I will not tolerate it.  If your actions seem unnecessarily harmful I will not tolerate them.

Though…I do accept that I cannot change everything.

absence makes the heart grow fonder

There is that old saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Well…I never really believed that. But since meeting my husband I have come to understand that a little absence can be good for a relationship.

My husband works as a tree planter in British Columbia. But we live in Ontario. So for three to six months out of the year he is away planting and I am home. At first I had trouble accepting this. Especially when he left for four months when I was pregnant with our first child. He only barely made it back in time for her birth. It was a scary thought being alone for four months, working and caring for three dogs and sick with a growing life inside me..oh the nausea. I even put the whole nursery together, painting and assembling furniture almost entirely by myself. This did not a happy camper make me. But three years into our relationship, we are on the edge of a shift where he may never go planting again. And strangely…a part of me is sad about it.

Each time he went it was a little easier watching him go. This last time I didn’t even flinch. Sure I miss him…and this time I’m alone with two kids under two, a dog, a puppy, two baby budgies and some fish…and every other week a teenager. But at this point I know what I’m doing. I have a routine that I get into as soon as he leaves and sure going to the post office is a huge endeavor but who cares? Having this time apart offers us both a chance to be without the support and nurturing of our partner.  That may sound like a bad thing but too often couples lose themselves in a relationship. Its so easy to become reliant on the other person and take take them for granted or even worse, forget that you are in fact able to be alone and be okay.

Having no fear of being alone enables us to maintain relationships that are good and nurturing and leave ones that are unhealthy. They say that public speaking is the number one fear, even above death…but I would argue its more likely fear of being alone. Think about it. How many people (likely including yourself) have you seen stay in unhealthy relationships long past the reasonable point of exit because of  fear of being alone. People cloak it in convenience or attraction…but really, if we were all comfortable being alone we wouldn’t need a relationship just because it’s convenient…and we would never stay with someone who was boring, or mean, or just not quite right for us. Nobody would ever settle.

These months that I have spent alone have shown me not only that I want my husband because we genuinely have something awesome together, but also that I am more capable of running a house and family then I ever realized. What I lack in adult interaction I make up for in solitary reflecting on my self and my life…and brief spurts of this alone time is good.

I wouldn’t want to single parent forever. I would miss my husbands love and friendship, support and humour, everything…if he suddenly were gone for good. But I know I COULD do it. And that knowledge gives me great faith in myself as a parent and as a person.

The more solid and established our relationship gets, the easier it is to see him go because I can find the value in this time apart and I know he’s a good man who is going away to support his family, and is going to be coming home to us.

I don’t necessarily think every couple (including us) need so much time a part as we get…but taking a vacation from each other now and then is probably a good thing. Reconnect now and then to the person you are without your mate around. Go somewhere for the weekend alone, or take a vacation with friends. Prioritize a little time for alone time and the rewards are well worth it. And its okay to miss each other. Hell, its expected. But just because something is a little scary or sad doesn’t mean it isn’t a good thing.

Be Whatever You Want To Be

If you are anywhere near my age (30) you probably grew up in the generation that was told we could ”Be whatever we wanted to be”. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to decide this…because it wasn’t true, isn’t true, and probably never will be true. At least for most of us. 

If I look at all the children I know and work with (I work in a school) I am pretty certain they are not all going to achieve every dream. I would be money that the next thirty years for these kids will show a slew of divorcees, some college graduates but some drop outs and plenty who just don’t bother to go to college. Some who stick in dead end jobs their whole lives, and some who trade up careers like kids trade stickers. Some will be grow into happy and well adjusted adults, and some will not. But it isn’t just positive thinking and dreaming big that will mark out the success stories from the perceived failures. So just what do we need to teach our kids to best get them on that path to success? 

Well first, I would suggest teach them how to be happy in the now. Granted not every moment of even the happiest persons life is all sunshine and lollypops…but it isn’t so much what happens to you, rather how you handle it. Lets try teaching our kids that success is measured in personal growth, emotional maturity, and general balance and wellbeing. 

Second, lets stop telling our kids that they can be anything they want and instead show them how to look realistically at their innate talents and abilities and choose a career that utilizes that. If a kid is terrible at math but excellent at sports…perhaps a doctor is not the career choice for them and there is nothing wrong with that. We all have innate abilities and when we choose careers that play on those we stand a much greater chance for success in that field as well as feeling good about what we do. Even our ‘fall back’ careers should be something we happen to be good at. 

Third, lets take a page from my mothers book and be honest. She was volunteering in a classroom and noticed one of the kids had no motivation to participate and was really just goofing off and not engaging at all. So she quietly leaned in, looked him in the eye, and told him ”You know honey, the world is always in need of people to clean toilets and work deep fryers. And it’s the people who don’t try that get those jobs.” He just looked at her shocked. Nobody had ever said such a thing to him before and I don’t know whether it changed his level of engaging but it did appear to make him think a moment. And really, that’s all we can do. Be honest.

And last, I want to stress that the GREAT importance of reputation. We need to tell our children how important their reputation is. Not for being the most good looking, or the best athlete…but for being reliable and living with integrity. If you swindle people…you may get ahead for awhile, but you will eventually run out of people to swindle. Word gets around. People talk. Being a tactful, reliable, and generally trustworthy person is HUGE! It will get you recommendations, and it will be what has your back when you are in a tight spot. It is a good reputation that will spur most people to consider helping you when you are down, and will open doors for you. It takes time to build a good reputation and only an instant to make yourself a bad one, so think carefully before you act. As kids people will generally be forgiving, but as you get older forgiveness is harder to come by. 

 

This is my advise to help today’s children become ”All they want to be”

Grumplepuss

It’s that time of year again. That one day a year where little cupids appear in store windows, kids come home from school with heart shaped crafts, and couples who didn’t book three months in advance scramble to find a restaurant with an open reservation (Ha! Good luck with that).

For a day that is centered around love one would expect to see a vast surge in smiles and cheer, but alas Valentine’s Day also seems to bring out more bitterness and whining than any other holiday. Yes, people are unhappy around Christmas too…I hear (though have not confirmed) there is an increase of suicides during the Christmas season…but if people are unhappy about Christmas they seem to be relatively quite about it. Valentine’s Day on the other hand seems to be met with loud protests. If I had a nickle for every time I heard ”its too over commercialized” I would have enough nickles to buy a…well…a grande latte at Starbucks.  And what exactly is the acceptable amount of commercialism anyway? The other complaint about V-Day that I hear frequently is ”Why should we force all our romantic gestures into one day? We should be doing these things for each other all year!”

Well…if you dear reader are a fellow lover of our Day of St. Valentine then cheers to you…but if you are a bitter Grumplepuss who has been heard complaining about this festive occasion then to you I say this,

These are the reasons why Valentines Day is awesome, and completely worth celebrating:

1) It is a day in honour of love. Love is a sacred thing and absolutely worth honouring.

2) Love is never reserved only for the happily partnered. It is accessible and acceptable to all people in a myriad of forms. When I was single I would plan festive Valentines dinners with my other single friends and we would enjoy celebrating the love found in friendship. 

3) I do agree with the critics that romantic gestures should never be reserved for just one day a year. But this isn’t a one or the other kind of scenario. My husband and I do romantic things for each other all year. He makes me a cup of tea almost every night before bed, that I consider a very loving and romantic gesture. He has brought me home flowers on numerous occasions ‘Just because’.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t take pleasure in doing something special with me on Valentine’s Day. Boycotting Valentine’s Day is like boycotting dinner because you would rather eat Breakfast and Lunch. You can in fact have it all. grab your cake and eat it. And when you are done bake another cake and eat it too.

4) Feelings have no smell, no sound, no mass. You can’t force a feeling or change it at will. And because of this Love can’t be bought or sold. People can be…you can buy off someone with a bribe…or technically buy a someone if you are into those kinds of markets as I sincerely hope none of my readers are. But no matter how hard you may try..you simply cannot buy or sell a feeling. So how exactly is Love commercialized? It isn’t. Heart shaped candy is commercialized and just happens to be pumped out in droves for one particular day a year because people buy more of it that day. But let us not diminish the beautiful thing that is Love just because someone happens to make more money than you that one day because they were smart and/or lucky enough to get into the heart shaped candy business. Don’t buy their candy, that’s fair. But please don’t swear off a chance to celebrate love because of it.

These are my reasons for celebrating Valentines Day every year, whether I am single or married, broke or rolling in green (or multicolours as I am Canadian). If you insist on being a party pooper despite my excellent reasons to the contrary, then at least have the decency to keep your depressing ideas to yourself. Don’t seek to ruin my happy day with your bitterness. And even if you do loudly try to squash this holiday like a beautiful lady bug that was minding her own business….I will continue to celebrate it anyways because I have a life full of love and I am damn well going to revel in it whenever I can because there should never need to be an excuse or a reason to celebrate the beautiful things in life. 

Body Image

I had a conversation with my husband a few weeks ago. We were discussing the benefits of the YMCA membership we have and how the extra money for access to the steam room is well worth it. And my husband brought up the fact that when he goes to the steam room he doesn’t want to talk politics. This was bizarre to me. Apparently the men’s change room has a drastically different dynamic than the women’s and I find it fascinating.

According to my husband, men are often extremely insecure about their bodies and will make a loud show of “Yes I am naked and yes I am comfortable with it” to mask their insecurities. And the vast minority of men are actually comfortable enough with themselves to quietly go about their naked business. And the steam room is apparently a venue for social hour with conversations ranging from current politics to sports to whatever have you. This is so drastically different then my experience in women’s changerooms.

In a woman’s change room we display insecurities in a more introverted way. Most of us who are post- adolescent seem relatively indifferent to being naked in front of each other and when we are we certainly aren’t masking it in overt displays of our anatomy. We quietly wrap ourselves in a towel and try not to be noticed. Though we often have conversations with each other in the change room, the second we get into the steam room there is an unspoken law that says “you will not speak”.

For many of us it is our only moment of zen like peace in an otherwise hectic and noisy day, especially those of us with young children. For me the steam room is the place I can go where no children are allowed; you have to be at least eighteen years old to eve be allowed in the membership plus change room where the steam room is located. It’s peaceful, serene, and I know I can get into my own space with no worry of anyone interrupting me in my zen zone.

It sounds like my husband would be better fit in the woman’s change room…then that got me thinking. We women have many insecurities about our bodies, but it often seems to be mate related. When around other women (and I am speaking from my experience as a heterosexual woman) we seem to have a unifying force among us that says “we are all women, we are in this world together”…a sisterhood of sorts. We will tell our friend she doesn’t look fat, or her long toes are cool…or at least quietly nod in understanding when our sister sadly pokes at her muffin top. Until you throw a man in the mix. The second a masculine presence arrives or even the idea of it…most of us want to scratch each others eyes out. The one gorgeous, slender, blond with big breasts and a perfect posterior to walk into any room full of average women (many beautiful in a variety of ways, don’t get me wrong) we as a general rule must hate her.

Now there are a few of us who do not live in that headspace. I for one don’t care how gorgeous another woman is, I only care how much integrity she has. Integrity is my baseline for judging anybody and everybody. Why am I an exception to this common female trait? Well for one, I was always the awkward girl who never felt like she fit in…so…I never saw myself as competition. I just assumed other women would get the guys and I would either be lonely or stumble across a guy who really liked me for me by sheer chance. That was then. Now I don’t think that way because I know I am not competition. I have a man. I have found that someone who likes me for me. He isn’t just attracted to me, he doesn’t just love me, he actually likes who I am. And that means that though he is attracted to me (poor be the person who isn’t attracted to their mate) it isn’t the only thing going for us. He does find other women attractive of course, he is a red blooded mammal and it would be a deep concern to me if he didn’t, but I don’t worry about him running around having affairs with these women. In fact women constantly flirt with him even in front of me and our children. They can’t seem to help themselves (I get it. I mean he’s just so damn awesome. That’s why I married him) but it doesn’t bother me because we are solid. I am solid in who I am as an individual, he is solid with so he is, and together we are solid as a couple.

So these games that women play trying to stab each other in the back, these slimy tactics of trying to steal each others men and trying to get ahead through sex appeal…they work. They will get you men. And they will likely get you “ahead” with your career or social standing. But only with intangable things. These women, at the end of the day, come up empty. They may get men, but not honest partners…not men who like them for who they are. Try may get ahead socially by sex appeal but that kind of sex appeal wears off as you age…and if you don’t have an honest partnership…you will find yourself bitter and angry and ultimately lonely. Those women who didn’t “win” those competitions…they will age with love in their lives because as men age a lot of them (the quality ones anyways) realize that who they want to mother their children, and to be their lover, and to be their friend…is a woman with the kind of sexiness that gets better with age. The kind that can only come from confidence and inner strength. The kind that only comes from a life of integrity.

Supply Mom Wanted

I looked back today on my life before staying home with my kids. I recall a time ehen being sick meant logging on to an automated system and with a few clicks I could go back to bed assured that my position would be filled by a competent individual from a blessed list of supplies. As with most electronic systems it is designed to be more efficient than employing a human to do this…however there have been occasions where I follow all the steps and yet no supply is called…or I put in for days off only to have the system magically disappear these requests… It happens from time to time and for all the frustration it can cause come days like today I long for such a system! Ah the sick day. Unlike those earlier days, now there is no program to flash those beautiful words “job creation successful, get back to bed you puffy eyed germ monster” (okay maybe i am paraphrasing). These days sick means  a night spent desperately trying to get to sleep despite the sore throat and runny nose that is threatening to drown me in sticky goop, managing to grasp a brief few hours before the baby wakes up and either because she is picking up on my stressed out vibes or because just by chance she decides to have worse gas pains than usual on the one night that it would be super inconvenient; she takes a whopping three hours to put back down again…by the time I drag myself out of bed in the morning to greet my delightfully chipper toddler I am about as pleasant and functional as that ball of unvacuumed dog hair amassing in the corner. Thus starts the morning. But I am nothing if not determined to make this day work. I will not be destroyed by a measly germ. Even through a power outage that leaves me and 7449 other customers without running water or lights  by noon I have managed to keep my spirits up with the “fake it till you make it” approach. I sent my husband text messages saying how good things are here and not to worry because i totally have everything under control. Then it hits me. That moment when the fake it approach reaches critical mass and explodes. I am attempting to make tuna melts for me and our toddler who graciously is having the least demanding day of her little life. The baby starts to cry…as is perfectly normal for babies…and within ten seconds I change from cool as a cucumber mama of the year to wailing crazy lady who sits on the couch with her head in her hands convinced her children will starve to death because she can’t get it together to get the sandwiches from the stove to the table. Ah yes. This is me at my weakest and most panic stricken moment. I call my poor husband and bombard him with unfounded accusations of “you lied to me!! You said you were not going to be gone all day long”..which isn’t true…but in my madness I believe all sorts of crazy things, and with the patience of a sloth out for a slow Sunday stroll my husband tells me I can do it…take some Advil…make sure to eat…and he loves me and will be home as soon as he can.

After a good cry and some silent cursing to the heavens I dry my tears, put lunch on the table, chow down some Advil, and put back on my fake it till I make it face determined to get through the rest of the day with everyone in one piece and children smiling and content…even if it kills me…as I am relatively sure it will not.