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Archives January 2013
Here comes Valentine’s Day, and unlike my (perhaps suspect) memory of grade 2 Valentine’s Day where my carefully-decorated paper bag “mailbag” was not as full as Ann L.’s was with construction-paper-and-paper-doily hearts, cinnamon hearts and Sweet Tarts, my boys will be participating in the carefully-orchestrated new, nicer tradition where teachers send home a list of the whole class and any and all handouts will go to all.
Which is lovely. And my boys will love it.
But…is it just me, or are the stakes on these things going up every year? At first it was everyone’s name laboriously and under threat (“two more names and then we’ll have dessert) printed onto pre-made Valentines. Then it was a card and a (nut-free, ethically sourced) chocolate. Soon after that little goody bags appeared, and last year my son carted home cars, stickers, plastic boxes with little notepads and pencils, erasers and even one of those little foil balloons on a stick.
Don’t get me wrong…there are amazing, sharable Valentine’s Day gifts — we even have some amazing choices for you right here on CL Moms.
It’s just…frankly…between birthday loot bags, stockings and my kids’ belief that every rock, stick and undefined piece of plastic or metal on earth is an amazing treasure that must be brought home, our bin of “little things” is overflowing. Before I had kids I did not appreciate that the world has turned into a place where every event and, if you dine at particular restaurants, indeed, every meal must be accompanied by its own loot. Not only that, but I feel pressured to come up with something delightful that also won’t stick around. (If you have Valentine’s Day gift ideas, please share them!)
I kind of miss the days when Valentine’s Day represented a meal at a crowded restaurant with a limited menu….
Last year the parenting blogosphere lit up with discussion of Dara-Lynn Weiss’s article in the April issue of Vogue where she detailed her 8-year-old daughter’s 16-pound weight loss. You know what controversy leads to today: A book deal, and so here’s the heavy, her memoir.
I’ll admit that I was one of the people who was pretty skeptical when the story first hit. What child needs to be on a diet before she’s ten? Isn’t this an indication of our cultural madness when it comes to weight? So I approached the book expecting to spend a lot of time sitting on the couch huffing.
Instead I came away from the heavy with a new appreciation for how complicated these issues really are. It might help that my own 7-year-old is about the same height as her daughter was, and weighs just over half of where her daughter started when she put her on the diet; that helped put the pediatrician’s view of Weiss’s daughter as obese into perspective for me. It also seemed relatively clear to me, bearing in mind that Weiss might not be the most reliable narrator, that her daughter’s issue with weight was unusual in terms of both how much she weighed, and that it was so hard for her to lose even on what seemed to me like a pretty low-calorie diet.
But I also was brought face-to-face again with the fact that food and parenting is complicated. It’s not just about wholesome organic choices and figuring out who controls what. It’s also a very social activity, eating.
Take cupcakes at parties: In theory, I think it’s a little extreme to withhold cupcakes from your child at birthday parties unless there is an allergy issue, even though I recognize none of us probably needs the sugar and dye (well, I need the chocolate, but that’s another story….) But when Weiss pointed out that based on just school birthday parties, her daughter would consume over 14,000 calories in cupcakes alone — a 3-pound weight gain, if those calories were not expended elsewhere — I started to sympathize.
And the amount of judgment and actual direct under-cutting she received from parents like me who were skeptical of her choices was pretty disrespectful. She made the point that if a parent of a child with an allergy to nuts grabbed an Almond Joy away from his or her child, no one would think twice about it. But when she told her daughter she could have either the M&Ms or the cake at a party, there were some looks.
Ultimately I’m not sure Weiss’s memoir gave me any practical advice or even better thinking about my own kids and their eating habits or weight, probably because I came to see her daughter’s struggle as a medical issue that we don’t share.
But it did remind me that it is much, much easier to judge other parents than it is to know what to do with our own kids when a problem presents itself.
Do you have any food issues with your kids?
As January rolls to a close, I’m just wondering how everyone’s New Year’s resolutions are holding up?
Has the “eat right, live well” sentiment already given way to “I have no choice but to eat this Quarter Pounder because it’s the only thing between here and a stale hot dog at the rink and at least it has onions and pickles (i.e. vegetables) in it?” Or are you in the “just one more cup of coffee will quell my hunger and keep me stimulated…now hand me the Fritos” stage already?
Well, I’ve come up with a brilliant plan. I am now only going to eat what’s left behind on my kids’ plates.
Portion size won’t be an issue and I’ll cut a minimum of 400 calories a day easy.
I’ll get dodgy bits of grilled cheese and cauliflower, which I don’t like anyway. Perfect. They’ll have eaten the fries, so I don’t have to worry about that temptation. But blobs of peanut butter on the tablecloth are fair game.
Broth soups, of course, will be key to every meal. Just make sure they’re sodium reduced. You’ll make up for lost salt by licking your children’s fingers after they’ve eaten chicken nuggets.
Of course pizza crusts with the toppings eaten off will be a staple. Keep in mind the tomato sauce does count as an anti-oxidant.
And no, I won’t be digging raisins out of the car seat, no matter how tempting it may be…
Copious amounts of water must also be consumed to ensure a proper cleans and body balance, and yes, you will be peeing every 18 seconds. Not to worry, I have a network of women who know every good, clean, stroller-friendly public washroom across the country. Just email me if you need help, and no, the children’s school is not off limits.
Now, about wine:
Yes, adult grape juice is allowed but, like any juice, must only be consumed in moderation. Unless it’s playoff weekend and you’re stuck in an ice rink for 48 hours on end. In that case, adult juice and hot toddies and/or Irish coffee are a necessity.
Same goes for Super Bowl Sunday.
Let me know how it goes and have a great week!
I am raising two sons, who will be men one day. I would really like them to be men who engage with equality and feminism and who are into strong women. And while my house is full of all things Cars and Lego, I’m starting to feel like my elder son in particular needs to watch more stories that qualify under the Bechdel test. The idea of the test is to see if the story you’re watching (or reading) supports strong female characters. Here’s the test:
- The film, book or TV show has to have at least two women in it,
- who talk to each other,
- about something besides a man
(In my house we kind of add in “or an apparently male car/superhero vehicle.”)
Maybe that’s why this TED talk caught my eye. Colin Stokes talks about his kids’ movie obsessions and which messages his kids might take from them:
In summary: Kids do take away messages from the movies they watch – and it will come as no surprise to any parent whose child has become obsessed with the Force that those stories can stay with them a long time. And it’s not always older films that are lacking. It can be remarkably hard to find strong female characters in kids’ movies being released right now.
Perhaps surprisingly, one of the best series we’ve found at my house are the Tinkerbell movies. Although we haven’t watched the most recent, they seem to focus on friendships and problem-solving among all the fairies – not on dating or marriage, and Tinkerbell interacts with all kinds of people.
Do you keep an eye on your kids’ media diet in terms of presenting strong female characters? Recommend your favourites!
“Special needs children need to be special somewhere else.” What would you do if you heard someone utter this statement?
What would you do if a group of regular customers at the restaurant you work at asked to move from their table to a table that was farther away from where a child with Down syndrome was sitting?
What would you do if you overheard one of them say “Special needs children need to be special somewhere else”?
What would you do if those very words cut you like a knife?
Well, I’ll tell you what Michael Garcia, a waiter at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib in Houston, Texas, did. He told this customer: “I’m not going to be able to serve you, sir.”
And later, as the customer was on his way out of the restaurant, he asked him: “How could you say that? How could you say that about a beautiful five-year old angel?”
Kim Castello and her five-year-old son, Milo, who has Down syndrome, are also regulars at the restaurant. Milo was excited about his birthday a week earlier and was chatting it up with a few waiters when Kim noticed the other table move. She didn’t hear the remark, but was so grateful to Michael when she later found out what he had done.
“I was impressed that somebody would step out of their own comfort level and put their job on the line, as well as stand up for someone else,” she said. “I know Michael did it from his heart.”
Michael said his personal feelings took over and he didn’t think twice about whether or not this would cost him his job. It didn’t. Instead he is being celebrated as a local hero. As news of Michael’s action spread across the Internet, customers have been seeking him out. People are coming in to shake his hand and business has been phenomenal.
Kim hopes this story will encourage “people to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves and that it’s worth taking the risk.”
As for the other table, “maybe next time they’ll think twice before they utter those words or say something derogatory about somebody else,” she said.
I will end this post by telling you what I always tell my children…
Always follow your heart. It rarely leads you down the wrong path.
This story is a prime example of what can happen when you do just that.
When my eldest son went into full-time daycare so I could take my dream job, everyone I knew was super-supportive and offered to be my backup childcare network.
Then, of course, he got sick. And I learned:
- Kids get sick in the night, meaning that calls to the backup babysitter happen at 6 am.
- Kids always get sick when you have had a week where you got behind first.
- Everyone I know, even those who are retired, are as busy as I am. Sometimes more.
Bottom line on backup childcare: Even with the best of friends and family, I have not found a great backup babysitter plan to address the question of backup childcare while my kids are in school/daycare. My parents are not always in the best of health and over time we’ve found that we can’t expose them to all the germs. My sister lives in the States, and as my kids have gotten older more and more of my friends are either working full time themselves or back to school.
And while there are solutions that involve money, they also involve a lot of trust and sometimes, a lot of money – a lot of our regular sitters have regular jobs, and hiring specifically sick-care nannies is not inexpensive. I have also been surprised at how emotionally tough it is (although not impossible) to leave a sick child to a caregiver the child does not know that well.
Usually my husband and I juggle our deadlines and meetings as best we can, because we both have the luxury of supportive and flexible workplaces. I feel really lucky, but I also recognize that it is in fact luck and not a professional perk I have earned. I try to pay it forward for colleagues when they have personal issues come up. And although I’m still settling in here at Canadian Living, in the past I’ve tried to keep my life easier by:
- Working ahead of deadline as much as possible
- Leaving good notes for others, just in case
- Using technology as much as possible to be available, conference in on meetings, etc.
- Trying to keep my sense of humour. It does get easier; with a toddler we are in the worst years again, but I know: it ends. One day, we won’t need that backup babysitter.
I also seem to forget every time, but learned again on Monday: Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. You can spend all day obsessing over something, wishing your phone had Mary Poppins, Backup Babysitter in the contact list or you can admit defeat, and focus on your child.
What’s your solution to times your kids are sick and you need backup childcare? How do you handle the stress, or do you find it fine?
Apparently, the most popular baby names of 2012 are Aiden and Sophia–for the third year in a row in fact. Hmm…that surprises me given I only know one Aidan and no Sophias. But I guess maybe my circle isn’t very representative of the moms who sign up for BabyCenter.
My little one’s name, Annabel, ranked 51st on their Top 100 list, but with the alternate spelling of Annabelle. While my name was nowhere to be found, my husband, Jason, will be annoyed to learn that his name is still making the list, 35 years later! He always complains that his parents gave him and his sister, Jennifer, the most boring and common names ever. Every year, he had to contend with at least three other Jasons in his class. But to be fair to his parents, they were dealing with an 11-letter Ukrainian mouthful for a last name. It would have been cruel to also saddle them with a multiple-syllable first name. Although Jason has since come up with a few interesting alternatives–Arkinon anyone?
When it came to naming our daughter, we wanted something simple but not common. Jason didn’t want her to have the same experience as him going through life as Annabel P. I wanted it to have a nice ring to it, but it also had to be something my Chinese parents could easily pronounce. I didn’t want her grandparents perpetually saying her name wrong. Annabel means loving and loveable, which are both totally true, but to be honest, I wasn’t so concerned about the meaning so long as it wasn’t anything terrible.
I also didn’t want a name that I associated with another person or some pop culture reference. There were people we wanted to honour, but I wanted variations on their names, not their exact names. I also tried to make sure it wasn’t a name that was easy to mock. Let’s face it, kids can be mean. I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong at some point when some clever kid comes up with a ridiculous moniker for Annabel that I hadn’t entertained.
By the time I was about eight months pregnant, we had come up with a list of three names we both liked. A week before she was born, we both reneged. I was sticking with Annabel, but I wanted to meet her to be sure. After several hours of labour and delivery, Jason, who looked more pale faced and tired than me, said, “You can choose.” Smart man. Annabel it was.
So what are your kids’ names? How did you choose?
(By the way, Blue Ivy is still up for grabs in case you were considering it. Yes, I am being facetious. It didn’t make the top 100, but apparently Blue and Ivy individually shot up the ranks. Good grief.)
I’ve had that flu for the past few weeks, and while I could easily go off on a diatribe of how much it sucks to be sick when you’re a mom (i.e. you can’t actually be sick because there’s no one to take care of you but instead are constantly being dragged from your death bed to find a lost Lego piece or cook another grilled cheese) I won’t.
Instead I’ll tell you what I did this weekend.
I went to Bermuda and ran a 10k.
Now I realize that sounds ridiculous and wonderful and what has she got to complain about, I will say that dragging yourself out of bed for that was maybe not the wisest idea.
Because first of all, despite its incredible beauty, Bermuda is actually freezing in January. Any thoughts of lolling by the beach to recoup were dashed. Instead we had island tour and trips to the rummery and a lot of delicious food. (I know, I know, still not helping my case…)
But here’s the thing: when your girlfriends are whooping it up and possibly having midnight races in the corridors and you’re perceived as the party pooper because you’re in bed early, it’s a bit too much like when I first had kids. At that time, my girlfriends didn’t and they didn’t quite get why I couldn’t come out clubbing at the drop of a hat.
But that’s also another story.
So the race.
But I had to keep going –I had come this far and there was no way I was going to stop.
The course was beautiful and often you’d come around a bend in the road to find yourself in front of the most breathtaking view. But to get there, the course was also incredibly bumpy and hilly and steep. And there were times I thought I wasn’t going to make it, times I had to stop and walk.
Sounds a lot like parenting, doesn’t it.
Each time I was discouraged, I picked myself up and I kept going. Because that’s what moms do.
And when I got to the finish line sure, I cheered, but I was already defeated. I knew I had done my worst 10k time ever, and had already started beating myself up about it.
Instead of looking at what I’d accomplished, I was focusing on what I’d done wrong and what I could have done better.
Parenting is not a competition. We are all on this course, going at our own pace and doing the best we can. In the end, our goals are the same: raising healthy, happy, independent adults. That’s why I’m so grateful I have a network of women who support, comfort, encourage, sometimes yell at, goad, hug and humour each other, and who will always refill my glass of champagne, be it Veuve or cheap sparkling knock-off.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get the kids off to school and crawl back into bed…
I came home from work last Monday (the kids’ first day back to school after the Christmas break) and
my 13-year-old son proceeds to name off a few of his friends who received cellphones for Christmas.
Really, I thought. That’s nice.
Then he tells me that if he ever gets a phone, he wants an iPhone 5.
“Oh yeah,” I say, as I start to prep for dinner. ”But, you’re 13. Why do you even need a phone?” I ask.
“Well, to keep in touch with you and Dad, of course.”
He’s a real charmer, that son of mine.
“Oh really! That’s why you want a phone?”
“Well, yeah – that and the fact that all my friends went long-boarding today, and because I don’t have a phone, I didn’t know about it.”
Honestly! You’d think calling the landline was taboo around here.
And then the following day, back in the office, Donna Paris, our senior life editor, showed me this. It’s an iPhone contract written by Huffington Post blogger Janell Burley Hofmann to her 13-year-old son, Gregory.
I think the idea of having your child sign a contract before giving him or her a cellphone is sheer brilliance.
I love everything that it stands for and all that it implies – not only in regard to the ownership of the phone, but for life in general.
Although I’m not running out and getting my son a phone anytime soon, you can bet your bottom dollar that, when I do, I am going to incorporate bits and pieces of this contract into an agreement between the two of us.
In looking through the comment box at the end of Hofmann’s post, however, it appears that not everyone agrees.
So now I’m curious: Where do you stand on this? Yay or nay to having your child sign a contract before you hand over a cellphone?