Posts from the ‘Family’ Category

Bye kids…hello adults.

FirstDayofSchool_07

It is still the first day of school, though this time it’s university and it’s forever…

Tomorrow, the youngest will head off to the university to start his next stage of learning. He will leave the house after 17 plus years of being fed, clothed and nurtured.  And though going to Queen’s in the same town, he will head off to meet a new crowd of similarly minded young adults – sharing a dorm room with one of his high school mates, and a dorm floor with potential best friends for life.

For me, he will be so close – but then again, so far.

Like his sister who started university three years ago, and now shares a house only 10km from me, the distance that will emerge between us cannot be measured in mere kilometres. I am guessing, based on my experience, we will be worlds apart – just as I was with my folks.

I think back almost two decades, to the early days of child-raising – a time when I, as a parent, was the centre of their universe. A time when kids thought that spending time being cuddled, or watching TV and drinking hot chocolate, was nirvana. A time that I was always right and I was the font of all knowledge.

“It has to be true. Dad said it was.” – the mantra of the young child.

And even through their teen-hood – when I regressed to being a simple and flawed mortal, subject to the occasional constant eye-roll, sneer, or snarky feedback — through to their young adulthood, there was always some way or another in which Dad was needed: help with homework, a ride to a friend’s house, a meal that included a vegetable, sorting that never-ending pile of laundry, or constant nagging about one thing or another. It was the timeless dance of parents and their offspring.  The constant see saw-battle of “I can do it by myself” weighed against “I don’t want them to get hurt”.

And in 24 hours that will change. Soon I will have absolutely no clue what happens in their daily lives. I will not know about their successes, challenges, failures or fears. Unless they tell me. Our overlapping Venn Diagrams of life have just experienced a tectonic shift.

Grease poleAnd even though it causes me a little stress, it is right. It is, to quote Timon, “the circle of life”.  This is one of the last steps they will take in getting ready for the rest of their lives. The last time that they let go of the coffee table to take a few tottering steps with me watching, hands at the ready. They eventually have to “fly from the nest” – or is it “swim without water wings”?

And I think back to 1983.  I remember the feelings as I left home over 30 years ago.  Opportunity, independence, promise, excitement all flavoured with a soupçon of anxiety. I was a little sad that I was leaving my home and the people who had formed me; from the family who had made me a priority and made sure that I never wanted for the important things. But this melancholy was only a light blemish on the joy I was feeling.

I was on my own and on my way to becoming worldly, to learning grownup things and sharing good times and laughing and living for real!

And now I sit here on the other side of the fence. Perhaps not as sad as my parents, because we have already practiced being apart. But I am sad none-the-less. It is the end of a chapter.

It is the end of the childhood – completely. Everything, completely everything that defined their childhood innocence has now evaporated. It has disappeared, just like the sweet morning breath of a toddler escapes eventually.

I wish my son a fantastic time at university – just as I had. There will be friends and fun. And it will be full of many characterHangover building opportunities – of seemingly insurmountable challenges in the shape of readings and mid-terms and exams, of fantastically crushing hangovers and temptations of all shapes and sizes. He will learn great lessons like how borrowing $3 or $4 from five or six people can fund a whole evening of debauchery that you never have to pay back, as no one tracks loans under $5.00 (thanks for that lesson, ‘Tosh); or the governing factor in the frequency of laundry is the pairs of underwear that are relatively clean – and that buying muted tones of clothes means you can wash everything in one load; or that when it comes to engineering homework, “where there is no pressure, there is no flow”. And most importantly, that perhaps the best things you learn and remember in university aren’t taught in the lecture hall.

The Venn Diagram of Engineering

The Venn Diagram of Engineering

But, it will be totally unlike the days when I walked him to the school bus, or asked him if he had done his homework as we sat for dinner. It will be unlike the days when I was able to see the struggle and offer my wisdom. Now as he faces his new dragons, with the support of his well-meaning but similarly inexperienced peers his only broadsword, he must eventually learn all the lessons and overcome all the challenges on his own.  That’s what makes you an adult.

And I will wait, patiently, as my parents probably did, for the time he will call me for help, for support, and to hopefully to hear the voice of someone who wants to share in his life regularly — but who knows better than to ask.  And when he calls, I will probably give him a hard time, because that is how Dads show love. I will tease him, and almost make him regret calling me. But in the end, after the joking is over, I will give him advice and the benefit of my experience. He can take it or leave it, because in the end, it’s his life and his victories.

Dunc.Pal

I envy him, in a nostalgic sort of way. And I hope he exploits this for all its worth, because at this moment, the world is his oyster – and frosh week awaits!

Always a RMC Redman, but I'll wave the Queen's banner for my kids!

Always a RMC Redman, but I’ll wave the Queen’s banner for my kids!

Good luck to all of you that are seeing your leave the nest.  Exciting and sad, isn’t it?

Later,

ASF

Bubble wrap and the Bogeyman….

Need more bubble wrap....

Need more bubble wrap….

I recently read an article in the Globe and Mail by Stephen Quinn.

In his blog, he recounts the adventures of his two lads as they try to make their way home via public transport from downtown Vancouver – with minimal help from  dad. The short piece has its funny bits – sometimes  “funny ha-ha”, but sometimes more  “funny-peculiar” –  like how the two boys were slightly perplexed and seemingly naïve to the perils around them. Well according to the author anyway; his lads seemed confused about the perils as assessed by a worldly man standing 5’11” . The world is probably a lot rosier when you are well protected boys standing only 4 foot plus…

The article took me back in time. No worries, I never  “abandoned” my kids downtown with only bus fare, phone money and a Hot Rod pepperoni stick each. But rather, I remember being a kid in Toronto at a time when parental overwatch was minimal.

Oh the things we did! Before grade six, I remember walking to soccer tournaments during the summer holidays, leaving the house at 7.30 am, walking what seemed a hundred miles to Riverdale Park at Broadview. Funnily enough, I “Google-Mapped” it a little while ago (I think that is a verb); surprisingly, it was really a simple walk through the side streets of the Danforth, across Greenwood then Pape and finally to Broadview – but each walk had Stand By Me proportions. A simpler time, each day Mom would pack me a ham sandwich, an apple and a can of RC cola – and if I was really lucky, a two-pack of Dad’s Brand oatmeal cookies.  That and a hug on the way out the door was all the motherly attention I needed. Heaven!  And at Riverdale Park,  I played soccer all day – no worries of sunscreen, no bottles of water, no sun hat – and ran around crazily all day. I would get home about 10 hours later – dirty, banged up and really happy –  just in time to hear my Dad’s favorite greeting as he walked in the door from work, “…’Jinder, what’s for eating?”

Streetcars on Queen Street c 1970

Streetcars on Queen Street c 1970

Donwtown Toronto 1975...I have no clue who is in the middle of the road....

Downtown Toronto 1975…I have no clue who is in the middle of the road….

I also remember as the oldest child of three – and at the ripe old age of 12 years – leading my brother and sister (aged 10 and 8), right into the heart of Gotham, to Dundas and Yonge. We would see Black Beauty or the Shaggy D.A. or Star Wars at the Old Imperial Six theatre. It was great! And how many times did we jump on the subway or the bus or the streetcar to head to Ontario Place or the Ex’, or Maple Leaf

The Imperial Six....

The Imperial Six….

Gardens or the Royal Ontario Museum, or the Planetarium, or the Science Centre (which even today is not a TTC-friendly destination…)? A kids’ adventure…

And where were my parents during all this?  At home or at work – who knows?  I didn’t care; I had a dime for a phone call – there were lots of phone booths around.  Who needed a smart phone or a GPS or a child tracker? Not us…

I remember those days – we all reminisce about sitting untethered in the back of the station wagon, people smoking everywhere, when biking or skating without a helmet was okay. Parenting today is so different; so many things that we do and things that we buy to keep them safe. Comparatively, we lived a relative Darwinian existence.

I remember being doing things on my own: buying stuff, and making change and generally being aware of things when they just did not feel right. I remember looking both ways and crossing with the green, and reading a map and asking for directions from complete strangers. I never felt threatened nor scared.

But I can’t ever remember letting my kids do that. Why not? Is it because I felt that the world was not a safe place, that the risks were too high? Probably.  And by not letting them, did I do really do them a favour?

Everyone knows that parenting has changed. Even the big corporations. I mean, look at the Chevy car ad…the parents fawning  over their poor lad Tonito!  Okay, what is that all about? That kid is gonna be scarred and look to Mommy and Daddy for everything. He will never learn the life lesson of forgetting your indoor shoes in the winter, or why idiot strings on mittens aren’t such a bad idea or the thrill of swimming to the far side of the pool without water wings and with that slightly terrifying panic of “I’m gonna drown…” – of realising that yes, yes he can do it on his own without mom or dad holding him up – or back.

Lucas the Forever Scarred... See the vid at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IZDzlZXNG4

Tonito, the Forever Scarred… See the vid at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IZDzlZXNG4

So why are we so different from our parents? I know – the world has changed… rapists and molesters, murderers and abusers, drug pushers and pimps and slave traders all abound in droves now. But sadly, statistically speaking – and counter intuitively – our kids are probably in more peril being with those in positions of trust than with complete strangers. But still,  I had the same fears as all parents, and I had to fight the urge to be over-protective. Hopefully I kept it in check to some degree – the scar on my daughter’s forehead is testimony to that.

But I am sure that, like all of my generation, I have imparted some of my anxieties and tics to my children. It’ll be interesting to see what their parenting style is like!

I think about what my parents did, or really, didn’t do. They never drove me anywhere unless they were going there too – I walked, rode my bike or took public transit. They rarely gave me money – I delivered papers, had summer jobs or did chores for money.  Don’t get me wrong.  I never wanted for anything. I had clean clothes (not necessarily the most fashionable). I had good food…though it took me until my 20s to realise that curry was something special. I had birthdays and presents and video games – Pong and Intellivision –  and the ever-present music.

But somewhere between my growing up and becoming a parent, I began to think that was not enough for my kids. I did not want my children to want for anything, or to get hurt or to be sad or tired or hungry or anxious. But in retrospect, I could have done better.  I now believe that independence and challenges are the very best teachers; a fishing pole instead of a fish.   As I look around, I am not sure that coddling or bubble-wrapping kids is working. Failure and rejection and disapproval are pretty good teachers, too.

I am who I am because Mom and Dad let me explore and experience and take risks and the occasional scolding.

Yes, my kids are confident and happy (I think). And they are independent: one living on her own and having spent a good chunk of last summer backpacking through Europe with friends, and the other just about to head off to residence and uni. Not bad, and even though they still do love Dad’s taxi and the occasional help from  Dad’s bank account, who wouldn’t!

But, thinking back, I wish I had released the reins a bit more. Think of all the other places they could have gone and the adventures they could have had.  And you know what, I am sure that if you giv’em a little age appropriate latitude as they grow, they will probably find out where the real bogeymen are all by themselves…

Later,

ASF

1 January 2013

january-1

Hung over this morning? If so, sorry…if not, you must be either very young or getting older!!

new_year_hangover_800w_600hFunny how we fixate on New Year’s.  The night before, we are partying with friends and family – eating and drinking as if there will be no tomorrow. And for some, perhaps the morning of 1 January does feel like the end of the world.  No worries – they’ll feel better on 2 January!

1 January.. Important to us, but not such a significant day in the Chinese or Islāmic or the Indian calendars, or the Ethiopian, Assyrian, Persian and Hebrew ones (there’s more than just the Gregorian and Julian calendars…poke around  Wiki List of calendars – there’s over 46 in use now, and a few dozen archaic and chinese_astrologyproposed calendar formats out there. Just don’t go all Mayan on us…)

But, courtesy the Gregorian Calendar and its benefactor Pope Greg the 8th … 1 January is the day that starts off  our new year and a new beginning for those in the “Western World”.

Forget the trouble, strife and anxiety of 2012…anything is possible and everything can be altered for the good in 2013.

Really, I don’t think it is that simple. If it was, I’d be thinner, healthier, richer, smarter, more productive, more organised, better focused than I am now – the perfect role model to whoever cared.

But, life is not like that.

The omnipresent New Year’s Resolutions have never worked for me. I do not believe that my resolve is any stronger on 1 January than it was on 31 December, or than it will be on 1 July or 9 October. Taking stock of the number of people who fade away from the cardio room ar the Gym by mid January, I’d say that sentiment is fairly universal.

ch-new-year-resolution

Personally, I have made very few resolutions on New Year’s Day.  I quit smoking, (the last time), on a March 29th  – okay  maybe the end /beginning of the fiscal year – but not really a New Year’s Day. And many other of my life defining decisions have been made on any number of Gregorian dates – I have not waited until the new calendar was placed on the refrigerator.

But 1 January feels important. It is the day that marks a clean sheet, a new start. And more importantly, new promise.

And that We, full of our positive energy from a happy Christmas, full of kinship and food and spirits, wish to spread our recent joy across into the new year. A time when focus all our well-wishes and optimism in the hope that it will make everyone’s lives better. When we hope that everyone has a happy, and healthy, and prosperous new year. That everyone gets a chance to realise their dreams, to succeed in the face of challenges, to feel secure and safe; to be free of fear, of worry, of pain, of anger, of disappointment, of distress, frustration, disillusionment, regret, panic, and apprehension.

And in this time of relaxation and repose, of reflection and thought – and before we return to our routine and obligations and livelihoods – it is the time of year to hope for lofty dreams. To hope that this is the year that people of different faiths show more tolerance andunderstanding so that their children

Tutu and Dalai Lamacan grow without seeing violence and hate as the only options. That this is the year that we figure out how to feed and water a growing population without wasting our resources or damaging our planet. That this is a year that we challenge and defeat a number of afflictions and diseases and syndromes that result in needless deaths – deaths that are either violent and unforeseen, or lingering and inevitable.

I know we all wish that for each other throughout the year – not just on 1 January.  But what better time to say it…then when we are all thinking of everybody?

And while the road may be rocky – with the help of friends and family, it is never impassable. I wish everybody a very happy 2013 – one of challenges and growth, of joy, love, fulfillment and fun.

Later,

ASF

Happy Christmas to all…and to all a Goodnight!

christmas-wallpaper47

Wooohoooo….It’s Christmas time!

What a great time of year.

Meisterburger BurgermeisterNow if you are one of those Burgermeister Meisterburghers who will begrudge Yule, complaining about the commercialism, the forced family intimacy, the loss of spirituality, the absurd political correctness that swirls around it all – all I can say to you is , “Bah…Humbug!”

Even though I am not Christian, I have been versed in the “Reason for the Season” courtesy of a knowledgeable and tolerant Dad. And if both he and I are not mistaken, the “reason” is the Bearded Fellow’s birthday…no, not the One in the Red Suit.  I mean the One in Flip-Flops. You know what I mean…Christmas is the day that the cute little baby Jesus, the one that Ricky Bobby loves so much, was born.  And alongside his birth come all the things recorded in song, like the Star of Wonder, and the Three Wise Men, the Little Drummer Boy, and most importantly Peace on Earth.

PEACE_ON_EARTH

And how can anyone argue against Peace on Earth?  Christmas…perchance originating from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia…has many cousins of all shapes and colours and sizes.  Not all of them fall on 25 December, but they fall conspicuously close to time of year known as the Winter Solstice. Hannukah, Kwanza, Eid, Diwali, Borodin, Mithra, Tree Festival are just a few of the diverse holy and significant days.  And though they do not all center on Jesus, they are all centred on celebration, togetherness, and generosity.

And all of them, I am guessing, at the very base of their being, have one common denominator … Goodwill to all Mankind.

So, given that this is the Season of  Goodwill, how can you possibly not believe in it?

So many things to love…the excitement, the happiness, the time to spend with family and friends, and to celebrate each other.

“But, but…”, says the nay-sayer…

Yes,  I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy the shopping or the crowds, but I do love my children’s laughter , the special look on my lovely wife’s face, the smiles on my parents’ and siblings’ faces when they open the gifts I have selected for them.

And yes, it is true I don’t enjoy the hard work of “decorating”. But the look of a house all festive and resplendent with lights and snowmen and penguins and reindeer and holly, is unbeatable.  And then Die Tannenbaum, l’Arbre de Noël, Den Julgran, Joulukuusi, Pom de Craciun, Arbol de Navidad, the Christmas Tree … one chosen with special care…is adorned and aglow, filling the house with the fresh clean smell of evergreen and sparkling with decorations that remind me of Christmases and places past.

how_the_grinch_stole_christmasAnd I do enjoy the Christmas specials…all which remind me of a younger, innocent me who revelled in Rudolph, Kris Kringle, Charlie Brown, the Grinch, the Red Ryder Air Rifle, the Griswalds and a host of other Christmas characters like Yukon Cornelius or Cindylou Who or The Bumpuses.  They bring back a joy and happiness and a little bit of Christmas magic, the years when I tried frantically to go to sleep so that it could be Christmas morning.

And the music…Thumpety Thump Thump and Hark the Herald Angels and Good King Wencelas and Fa la la la. Many a school concert and wassailing evening have been filled with songs that make you happy.

Charlie Brown

Oh, and the food…the Roast Beast and the Who Hash. Kidding. Christmas dinner was and is a feast.  Roast turkey, and Italian Sausage and Apple Dressing, sour cream mashed potatoes, a golden cheese cauliflower globe, green beans, gravy and cranberry sauce, apple and pumpkin pies…all of us pushing away from the table, and waddling away with loosened belts… swearing that we will never, ever eat again. Until the next day, when the turkey sandwiches on fresh bread, and turkey a la king, and turkey soup lay waiting…yum yum.

christmas-dinner1

I love all these things.  But it is not what I love most.

What I love most  would be the kinship. The reconnection with friends, and with family, through cards and calls and Skype and in person is fantastic. And some large-hearted people move it to the next level, sharing their good fortune with strangers and the needy.  This time of year, many of us will give generously to charities and churches and community groups.  We give to the homeless, the lonely and the less fortunate. It is a kindness we should share all year round – but, out of Christmas can grow a generous spirit to last the whole year.

homeless-christmas-4

Christmas is a time of year to reflect on what we have accomplished and to recharge our emotional and spiritual batteries. To spend time with our loved ones and to remember all that is good amongst us.

The boxes and bags and wrappings and food are all extra.

So…

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near.

Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.

Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we.

Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.

Whoville Christmas

 My best wishes, to you all, for a Happy Christmas full of love and joy and peace – especially for those who are facing hardship and strife. And for those that are away from home serving your country or your fellow citizens in dangerous places, know we are thinking of you and hoping for your safe return to your loved ones.

All the best in 2013…see you in the New Year.

Later,

ASF

Jingle bells, Jingle bells…

Kris Kringle to Kindergarten to Naps…a crazy ride through my brain on ways I can be nicer…(and other stuff)

” Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” 

“It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.” 

―    Robert Fulghum

Sitting about idly this morning, I had one of those 10-second thought-strings that sort  of went like this:

kris kringleI’m bored… I’ll watch TV. Oh look, an advertisement for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”…”You better not cry. you better not pout.”… That’s right kids, you better behave or you’ll get coal for Christmas…

Hey wait a minute, kids are actually pretty good, I mean they learn good life skills at an early age and are usually pretty good at following them.

…..What? Is that really Brad Pitt doing a Chanel perfume commercial?…Seriously Brad….

Wait, what was I thinking about before?  Ummmm….Santa…manners.. Right.  You know, most kids behave well. The rest….well I guess they behave exactly the way we allow them too. What about us adults, do we only behave well at Christmas, too? What about the rest of the year ? Do we need to remember our manners, too?

Amazing aren’t they, those 10-second thought threads?

And then I went on to think about Sunday NFL games,  whether I should or shouldn’t go to the gym , and then ending up with the inevitable…”I’m hungry, I should eat.” So I made a sandwichsandwich.

And later, after I put away the sandwich things,  I thought about the behaviour thing again, and remembered that a few weeks ago I had rediscovered a list in my hard drive as I was cleaning up a few things on my computer (…and I was not deleting the cache history,  gentlemen!).  It is a list produced by Robert Fulghum (website ,http://www.robertfulghum.com/ ) author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  It is a favorite theme of mine (as you know) and I also believe that when we were young, we learned every life and social skill we would ever need for our entire lives – pretty much. Some would say it is too simple. Perhaps. But it is a really good start.

Learned in Kindergareten

The following, a bit of Fulghum’s  list, is right from the days when we wiped our noses on our sleeves. played in the sandbox and complained about nap time…

  • Share everything. (Could use some of that in the Middle East, or Southwest Asia, or Canada for that matter…)
  • Play fair. (Ahem…Cartels, Organisations, Oligopolies…aspiring politicians…take note)
  • Don’t hit people. (How many people and countries need to remember one…)
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess. (Environmentalists love this one…)
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.  (Wow…remembering this one would save a lot of grief)
  • Say you’re sorry when you  hurt somebody. (Simple, practical and useful advice that never goes wrong….)
  • Wash your hands before you eat. (Trust me on this one…the Norwalk virus is unforgiving)
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. (All for one, one for all…not “me, me, me”)
  • Flush. (..and don’t forget a courtesy flush once in a while…)
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. (at least mentally…if not waistline-ly)

That is simply the first slice of the advice – it deals more with protecting and respecting others alongside yourself.  But as Fulghum pointed out, we learned more…

What follows are the observations we made when we were younger – but I guess we only really start to appreciate them as we hit middle-aged (honestly, you never think about them when you are young and invincible…).   As Fulghum writes,

naptime  – Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes  up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

– Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.  So do we.

– Take a nap every afternoon

– Live a balanced life – learn some, and think some, and work some, and draw and paint and sing and dance and play every day some

Not much more to add, I guess. And while it is not the answer 42, and  it did not need a trip up the mountain to ask a Yogi for his advice – I believe that list can help us with how we  treat each other and unlock a lot of mysteries..

So while we get ready for Christmas, and remind our kids that whether awake or asleep, someone is ALWAYS watching (which is kinda creepy..) – don’t forget to dot your own i’s and cross your own t’s…’coz in about three weeks, Santa Claus is coming to town.  And he is making a list.

As for my part, as I head to parties, and  spend time with a host of others, I will take advantage of the time of year when I rekindle my pre-Christmas excitement like a pre-schooler.  I will do my annual review of the Kindergarten list and see if I can do anything better…I am sure I can.

Gotta go…Time to see what Kris Kringle is up to…

Later,

ASF

Where did all the kids’ costumes go?

Now, admittedly I have lived in the UK for the past three years, where 31 October just means it is the last day before November – so maybe my Hallowe’en rant  has already been aired (and I do not mean I am upset over the supposed “celebration of evil” thing). Maybe living in a country that considers Hallowe’en an “American Scourge” has insulated me from the furor. If so, I appear to not only have missed the start of the debate, but I also think I have missed the “tween” sexual revolution that seems to be the cause of the latest angst…

What am I talking about? I guess if you are one of those people who closes the curtains, turns off the porch light and ignores the doorbell and high-pitched chorus of “Trick or Treat, smell my feet”, or does not parent a twelve year-old girl, you probably have no clue of what I am talking about.

For sure, I am not talking about the home-made costumes that I recall my friends wearing when I was a kid…you remember the ghosts and cowboys and ladybugs and cats and mummies. No, they were cute and age-appropriate.

Time has been kind to the boys – but what about the girls?? How many news stories and blogs have I seen on the subject of costumes for young girls?  It seems that Cinderellas and Faeries and Raggedy Anns have been replaced by Pseudo-Stripper costumes that look more at home in an Adult ‘marital aids” store than the girls’ costume department at Wal-Mart.

If you are not sure what I mean, how about this for a visual…

If everyone’s complaining about them, who is buying them?

Time for one of my tangents….

What’s happening?  Is it something as simple as believing that young girls want to – or should – emulate the options available to grown women? As one of my Facebook friends commented cynically, the Hallowe’en Party at the local watering hole was shaping up to be a “Slutty Policewomen Convention”…I am sure there were a few skanky nurses to be seen, too.

Is that we want to our daughters to use as role models?

Now I am all about hearing the other side…debate should invite discussion and growth comes through entertaining differing views. But despite several blogs on the issue, include Dan Savage’s commentary that Hallowe’en should be celebrated as Heterosexual Pride Day or Heterowe’en (WARNING: some good old-fashioned “adult” language in the last hyperlink…), I am still unconvinced that we need to “slut”-ify the costumes. I think some of the comments in his article may ring true – and perhaps some have been explored while lying on the psychotherapists couch –  but there are also a few comments I oppose (like seriously, isn’t the term “ass-less chaps” an oxymoron – aren’t all chaps “ass-less”?).

Anyway, he is talking about adults and I agree that adults are entitled to dress any way they wish – as long as they abide by popular (and legal) conventions… and if they wish to play a game of Doctor and Nurse in the privacy of their house, who am I to disagree. (I don’t care, but it is not for me… I look horrible in a nurse’s outfit…)

But…

Shouldn’t such attire stay in the adult realm?  Selling that sexualised notion to “tween” and “teenage” girls is just plain wrong.  Perhaps it is a result of mainstream media or women’s magazines or popular film or music videos. Or maybe it is just a sad second-order effect of depressingly disturbing shows like Toddlers and Tiaras or Honey-Boo-Boo (no pictures…it is just too disturbing).

Whatever it is, I am not a fan. And I guess that I will just leave it at that…

Later,

ASF

The tragic aftermath of cyber-bullies…

Like most of the connected world, I was saddened by the new story out of British Columbia – the girl who committed suicide, evidently to stop the bullying and to end the cruelty of youth.

What a waste.

For those that have not seen the You Tube video (link here – Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm – YouTube), it is disheartening. And it speaks volumes about the evil side of the internet and connectivity.

I have commented before that the internet is whatever you want to make of it. It can highlight beauty and achievement and creativity and humour and wonderment; but then again, the internet provides opportunities for deviants and criminals and trolls and the mean.

It is incomprehensible to what depths that some people can descend; especially the bullies and the trolls.  Hiding behind their keyboards, cozy in their anonymity, they dispense vitriol and venom with reckless abandon – content that they have made someone’s life a misery.

Why? I don’t know…I am sure that no one really does.

Now, when it comes to the poor girl in the video, I am sure everyone will admit that it is true she made mistakes.  But seriously, were they life-ending ones? Yes, she was stupid and careless and ignorant of what the internet could be used for – and as a result she suffered fear, shame, pain and depression.  But why was she driven to such desperation? News reports allude to a stalker – while others report of  bullying from peers.

And though she tried to cope, in the end, it was too much. She killed herself.

Now if there was a predator involved, I hope that they find him and punish him to the greatest extent possible.

As for the kids…it is a sad truth that kids can be cruel to each other. And when the cruelness starts, the only options seems to be binary…hunt or be hunted.  And because most of the “hunted” kids are not mentally resilient enough to “let it go”, the effects can be devastating.  The statistics are mounting.

I often wonder why kids are so cruel.  Unfortunately, there could be many reason and contributing factors.  But without benefit of a Master’s degree in childhood development, or child psychology, I would probably blame it on two possible causes: bored kids or disconnected parents.

The results?

Kids who use the internet to amuse and entertain themselves, trying hard to fill whatever emotional vacuums they suffer, in whatever way they can. Maybe they are desensitized – their own emotions stunted through a lack of healthy stimulation; or maybe they are damaged, and want to spread their own pain to as many people they can because misery loves company.

I don’t know.  I don’t think anybody does.

All I know is that every once in a while, we are shocked that some young person tips over the edge and because of bullying – cyber, physical, mental or whatever – is either killed or takes their own life. And then, in the aftermath, we gnash our teeth and beat our chests and say that those responsible must be punished and that we need new laws to deal with the delinquent and the disturbed.

Close the gate – the horses have bolted.

General deterrence might address the issue – but I doubt it.  Bullying has been around for ever. Why not close the gate before the horses bolt? Why not talk to your kids and learn about their lives? Why not get to know their friends and learn about their “un-friends”? Why not share some affection, so that they don’t have to look for it elsewhere?  The shoulder to cry on should be at home…not on the ‘net.

It is too late to help Amanda Todd, just like it was too late to help Reena Virk.

You know, I hope that we do make laws harder on those that stalk or bully others on the internet. But more importantly, I hope that those of us charged with raising emotionally healthy, secure and confident human beings work very hard at it. We can’t protect against everything – some battles belong to our children alone. But, if we do a good job, maybe whatever these ignoramuses write or post on the net will be irrelevant.  No one will care.

And that, in my opinion, would work better than any new laws…

To learn more about the issue, you can check out the following sites:

STOP cyberbullying: Cyberbullying – what it is, how it works and how to understand and deal with cyberbullies

www.cyberbullying.ca

Later,

ASF