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Jun 30 2010

The Incredible Unfairness of Being 8

When you’re 8 a lot of things can seem unfair.

When you catch hell for smacking your sister and leaving a massive whelt (cuz your dumb sister gets hives and any contact with her skin leaves tell-tale evidence), it’s unfair.

When you have to clean up your room because your mom is “too busy” to do it for you, it’s unfair.

Even when you have to do homework! How unfair is that?

Sometimes “unfair” is relative and sometimes something happens that’s really Unfair, with a capital U.

I figure that having kids comes with the responsibility of teaching them how to be good human beings. As far as I’m concerned, I can fuck up every other job I ever do, in my life, as long as I get this one right.

I teach my kids that when they make a commitment, they keep it. No matter what.

To that end, my 8 year old, like it or not, is honour-bound to hold up her end of a bargain once struck. In doing so she has learned to work hard and feel great about the accomplishments she’s achieved.

This past week though, my little girl has been the recipient of, what I consider, a pretty unfair decision.

The details don’t matter but the broad strokes do. A lot.

In one swoop she learned that commitment only applies to her, that someone that has not worked as hard gets the golden egg gets to shove it down her throat to boot!

Awesome!

So now her hard work was for nothing and she gets mocked for not getting the same accolades as the other kid.

Double awesome!

How do I teach her that the behaviour of others should never dissuade her from what she knows is right and what makes her feel good about herself?

How do I show her that it is only her own opinion in her efforts that really matter?

How do I tell my 8 year old that the world is sometimes unfair in the most heinous ways and that sometimes those ways cannot be explained away with adult rhetoric?

And do I teach her to not sweat the small stuff even though, in her life, this is the BIG stuff?

How?

I thought about it a lot. I agonized through 90 minutes of yoga, trying to get my head around this explanation. I think I messed this up with the 11 year old a while ago because she has a great, big protective wall of sarcasm up around her to avoid such disappointment in the adults, and kids, in her life.

I don’t want the 8 year old to have a matching wall. It’s too tough to see through.

My strategy is to cuddle her up, even more than usual. To tell her that nothing can take away the accomplishments that she has achieved. That her worth is more than the decisions made by others.

If you knew the whole story you might think it insignificant. You might think that until you looked into the face, stained with tears, of the most amazing, talented, nice, funny, sweet, loving 8 year old in the world.

You might change your mind then.

I was put on this earth to protect and teach her. Now that I can’t protect her from this hurt, I’m going to have to teach her to put it in perspective.

In a year we’ll look back and think it silly to get so upset. But that’s a year from now. Tomorrow we’ll have to figure this out. It’s not going to be a simple solution. In fact, there is no solution that will teach her more than leaving things the way they are.

And that, my friends, is the saddest part of all.


Jun 3 2010

Regaining Focus…FAST!

For the last several hours I have been trying hard to dig myself out of a mis-directed focus hiccup.

I went to yoga but found that, far from zening me out, I actually left in a worse mood. Could be all those bloody hip openings that I hate but know are good for me. Kinda like spinach, only for your hips.

I ate chocolate. This is usually a no brainer. When annoyed, eat chocolate. There is medical research to back this up people! It increases your serotonin and makes you feel really good. At least that was what I was telling myself while devouring it on the couch this evening. After yoga btw.

3 hours of mindless nonsense on TV was next. America’s Got Talent. Stupid Housewives of NYC. I even tried Wipeout for a bit. None of it worked though.

The only thing left was to return to the writing. The thing that got me into this in the first place.

So, I wrote a post about being non-controversial on your blog. But it did little to assuage my annoyance.

Then, I had an epiphany. (or as much of one as is possible at 11pm after a nasty-ass afternoon. BTW, the morning was epic and I’m going to blog about it eventually. After I get to my epiphany)

Epiphany! Right, that’s what I was about to say.

Focus, for me, is about perspective. I was unable to find perspective in yoga tonight. It could not be found in chocolate or tv either.

Tonight I had to bring out the big guns. I had to troop out love to gain some perspective.

More specifically, maternal love.

For me all creativity and focus stems from this. The love I have for my children supercedes all other emotion and when I need to tap into it to get some, hard-found, perspective, it’s there for me.

I am so incredibly grateful for my children. Not just for the idea of them but for the people that they are.

They are bloody brilliant, sarcastic, adorable, insane, loud, occasionally obnoxious and even flatulent but they are 100% authentic. They teach me  what is important and, more importantly, who is important in my life.

All other concerns are moot.

I wish for you all to find your perspective in whatever form it takes and grab it tight. Don’t let the small stuff, or small people or barriers get in your way. Remember what’s important when you need to.

Here is my perspective.

Enjoy. Namaste.


May 27 2010

Funnest Kid Party Activity EVER! (ages 8-12)

Ok, last year I was in the middle of getting separated, unemployed, had no money and no employment insurance and a pile of debts. (stick with me, this is going to get a lot funnier ;)

My (10 at the time) daughter was jonesin’ to have a bunch of buddies over and since the year had not been going very well, I agreed.

The big issue was food. She wanted 10 friends for a sleepover and that meant that I had to feed 10 ravenous 10 year olds plus the 7 year old sister who would never let an opportunity to hang with the big girls pass her by. (she eats the most!)

It was really stressful. I didn’t want to ask people to send food with their kids because I wasn’t too keen on everyone knowing just how bad things were.

Now, as an outside-the-box aficionado I knew that I would be able to come up with a cool idea but as the party approached I had nothin’.

The kids arrived and were all super excited. I like to have a loose plan so that the maniacs don’t drive me to drink (any more) so I had planned to send them on a scavenger hunt.

Just as they were gathering around and asking about the hunt and dinner and cake and whatever, I had a mad epiphany!

What if I sent them on a scavenger hunt for food?!

We sat down with the kid cookbook and thumbed through to find 3 dishes. An appetizer, an entre and a dessert. Then I separated them into 3 teams, each armed with the recipe.

On the count of 3 they took off into the neighbourhood with their recipes and went to the homes of friends, asking for 1 thing on the list.

It was a crazy success. Not only did the kids have so much fun finding all the ingredients and competing against each other, they had a blast making the food and eating it too.

The winning team got bragging rights and got to eat first while the other teams served them. It was so much fun!

When I relayed this story back to the moms of the kids everyone applauded the creativity of it. (only a select few knew the real reason why I had opted for this particular party planning technique)

All in all it was the most successful party ever and many parents are now super pissed at me for setting the bar too high. Meh, what can I say?

Necessity really is the mother of invention!


May 27 2010

My Bad Knees – this is gonna cost me!

I’ve been an athlete in one form or another for pretty much my entire life. I was on skis for the first time at 2, golfing at 6, did all the track and field events I could enter, cross-country running, basketball, volleyball, softball, really anything with a ball.

Suffice to say that athleticism has been an important aspect of my life.

When I first popped out the kids I knew that sport would have to be pretty major in their lives too. I’d be fine if my kids wanted to be “readers” gasp. But they were also going to have to be athletic. In fact, I used to say “this family skis so if you want to stay in the family march your butt into that ski suit, strap on your boards and let’s go!” (admittedly it was a type-A moment but I think you get my drift.)

Turns out the little buggers are excellent athletes who excel well beyond any successes I had. At 6 they were both doing back-handsprings and can now both do back tucks! They’re in cheer-leading and it’s mad competitive and fun to watch.

My fearless 8 year old is routinely held aloft by other 8 year olds, often suspended 6 feet above a flimsy matt with only skinny arms holding her up. She seems right at home up there too which makes hiding my terror that much tougher.

Anyway, all this “encouragement” (let’s go with that rather than “pushy cheer-mom” shall we?) has now lead to one of my worst fears…dum, dum, dummmmmm….BAD KNEES.

Today the 11 year old and I headed to the much-put-off Dr’s appointment to discuss knee discomfort. Although to hear her tell it it’s less discomfort and more like “knives being stabbed into my knees”. Perhaps her flair for the dramatic could be attributed to her father…but I doubt it.

Anyway, so there we were at the Dr.’s office and within 30 seconds I’m out hundreds of dollars for upcoming physio, orthotics and new shoes. New shoes!? I just bought her those stupidly over-priced DC skate shoes and now I have to buy more? Ack!

I really have only myself to blame. I blame their dad for the messed up nonesense going on in both their mouths. (I didn’t need braces but daddio had them for about 12 years I think) So I have to take the heat for the crappy knees.

Oh, and as if it weren’t enough outlay of cash, she had to chime in with “what about this acne?”. That we can blame on dad for sure. He had a crater face for all of high school. Thank god I didn’t know him then or I wouldn’t even be having this conversation about genetics.

The acne question has already cost me another $40 in “prescription” product!

What’s the moral of this story? I think there are a few but let’s go with; don’t take your kid to the doctor…EVER!