And Then Things Change

We met on a beach. In Italy.

I had gotten kicked out of Austria for not having a work visa. I was on a spontaneous vacation.

He and his friends had just been promoted. They were on a spontaneous vacation.

I waded into the Adriatic Sea and introduced myself to the “hot army guys” playing football in the water and from that moment on, he and I were inseparable.

June 1, 1996 Jesolo, Italy

June 1, 1996
Jesolo, Italy

At least for those three days. And then we didn’t see each other for nine years.

I had a career. I got married. Had a son. Got divorced.

And then I Googled him and found him, by this time stationed back in the US. We emailed back and forth, updated each other, discussed a possible visit.

And then, without asking, I booked the tickets to go see him and sent him the flight confirmation.

A year later he moved up here and we were married.

And then we had a daughter.

We’ve been married for nine years this month.

But things change.

This month he moves out.

I will not place the blame on any one thing or any one person, although my inclination is to say it’s all my fault. That’s because I’m the doer.

I introduced myself. I Googled. I called. I flew. When indecision strikes, I think DOING SOMETHING is better than waiting. And that’s not always the case.

Out of respect for my very private husband, I will not blog our divorce.

But for me … I just need to put it out there. At least it feels like I’m doing something.

H

***

P.S. I’m ok. Fine, even. I’ve done this before and know how to put the kids first.

P.S.S. Nor am I going to become an anti-man, anti-marriage, angry person …

P.S.S.S. I really have no idea what I’m doing. Obviously.

A View from the Bench

I have worked as a trainer for AA and AAA Midget hockey teams, as well as a trainer for Bantam lacrosse teams. And I’ve managed my son’s hockey team since he started playing. All “my” players have been boys from the ages of 12-17. And I say “my” because I really do take my job (paid or not) seriously.

Trainer! Trainer!

Trainer! Trainer!

I treat them the way I’d treat my own kid. Including the time I had to fend off a drunk moron from trying to beat up a kid in a hotel hallway at tournament. They’ve had me laughing til I cried and, yes, sometimes they made me cry. But I can honestly say the boys in this age group are … unique. Do I hug and kiss you or do I kick your ass? That is the question.

Some of my favourite people <3

Some of my favourite people <3

By the time boys get to this age, their personalities are pretty much set. Thanks to hormones, they can still be little powderkegs of emotional timebombs. Some are better at keeping their emotions in check than others. Some are prone to retaliating. Some are prone to smashing their sticks on the ice, on the bench … on someone’s head.

Some can’t deal with the emotions in a healthy way and retreat into themselves and their playing suffers. They might criticize their teammates, they might cuss at the ref, they don’t outwardly react but they inwardly combust.

Then there are the kids that let things slide quite easily. If a ref misses a call, they might grumble but the move on. They might get frustrated but they get over it. They focus forward, they stay positive. They encourage and they press on.

It’s been my experience that the kids that are more resilient and let things slide and keep their emotions in check are – by far – the more successful little humans. They appear happier. They seem to enjoy the game more. They want to play. They want to practice. They seem, well, emotionally healthy.

And here’s the thing:

There’s often a correlation between the kids who CANNOT control their emotions in a healthy way and parents in the stands who CANNOT control themselves.

No shocker there.

Here are the ways your behaviour is affecting your kids:

YELLING AT THE REF
Your kid hears that and it increases his frustration with the ref. He begins to see the game as “us vs them” and the “them” is the ref. He blames the loss on the ref, but never credits the ref with the win, strangely enough. When parents criticize the ref, it causes kids to focus their efforts and anger on things they can’t control. Teach your kid that the ref doesn’t put on his pants for a game and think “I’m gonna go out there and miss some calls.”

CRITICIZING DEFENSE
Kids should never criticize their teammates but for some reason (and this is especially true for parents of the goalie!) it’s ok for parents to blame the defense and yell at them for not hustling or getting back fast enough. It’s a team and there’s a coach and his job is to teach, coach, and manage the game. Kids should focus on their efforts and not the efforts of their teammates. When parents criticize a portion of the team, it creates division on the bench.

CRITICIZING THE GOALIE
Blaming the goalie for a loss when he has a “bad game” is counter-productive. It may not happen in the stands, but it happens off ice, maybe on the way home after a loss. Kids need to be able to adjust their game, strategies, and tactics based on whether or not their goalie is having a “good” or “bad” game. This is called being flexible. It’s a great characteristic in a human being. Perhaps if the goalie blocked every single shot, every single time the defense wouldn’t have to stretch themselves and improve their game – what would be the point? Teach your kid that goals-against is a TEAM stat, not a goalie stat.

YELLING/SWEARING/FIGHTING/DRINKING
Yeah. This is just embarrassing for your kid. I’ll be honest, if you’re That Dad or That Mom in the stands then the rest of the team pities your kid. And your kid can hear you from the bench. And the team can hear you. And I, personally, want to throat punch you. You’re an embarrassment to sports parents everywhere. And I can tell you from personal experience that other teams say things like “Oh, are we playing McKnight? That’s the team with the crazy mom, right?” You become the object of ridicule. Explain to me how this helps your kid? Kids should never have to yell “MOM! STOP!” from the ice because you’re fighting. Kids should never have to join in on the laughter about their own father because to defend you makes them look just as crazy. Stop. Just stop.

COACH ABUSE
As a sport parent you have to realize that there’s a coach-player and coach-team relationship that has nothing to do with you. At some point you should not be advocating for your child to the coach and your child needs to self-advocate. This includes ice time, discipline, behaviour, leadership opportunities, etc… At some point you need to stop sitting at the dinner table and feeding the spirit of malcontent in your child with things like “yeah, the coach should give you more ice time instead of Johnny, you’re the better player” and instead start saying “Have you spoken to the coach about your concerns?” If your child believes he can advocate for himself, he will. Unless he thinks YOU don’t believe he can.

(Note, there have been some high-profile cases of abuse of players by coaches, I’m aware of these situations and the above paragraph does not apply. If you have concerns about any adult behaving inappropriately, DO SOMETHING.)

VOLUNTEER ABUSE
Kids see what you’re doing. They see you when you’re barging into the timekeepers’ box to cuss out some other parent for making a mistake. They see you when you’re yelling at the lady volunteering at tryouts because the line is too long and she helped someone else instead of you. They see you when you grumble and complain about the amount of fundraising. And strangely enough, when they see you do these things… they rarely see you volunteer. You’re teaching your kids that volunteers aren’t valued, and yet almost every sport they play is upon the shoulders of volunteers.1015928_10151440173666175_1518763870_o

Seven ways to be a sport parent your kid can be proud of:

  1. Volunteer to help the team or the organization.
  2. Cheer positively, encourage resilience. “Good job!” “Next time!” “Let’s go!” Or my favourite: loud whistling. Kinda hard to whistle angrily!
  3. Know the rules and regulations – follow procedures with complaints instead of just complaining. Encourage kids to have sober second thoughts and follow through on issues.
  4. Apologize if you make a mistake. Then change your behaviour.
  5. Spend more time listening to your child than you do talking about the game – his performance is not a reflection of your parenting. His performance is a reflection of a set of circumstances on one day, for one hour of his life. It does not dictate his future – don’t assign it more significance than it has. Good or bad.
  6. Let your child see you encourage others. This is a team.
  7. Smile. Yes, smile. Give a thumbs-up once in a while. When your kid looks back to see you in the stands, don’t let him see your grumpy ass scowling with arms folded in discontent.

Finally, since not every kid can go to The Big Show, sport parents everywhere need to start redefining success.

It’s not a game. It’s not a season. It’s not an award.

It’s your kid looking forward to practices, games, seasons … loving the game and enjoying it with you.

My Favourite View

My Favourite View

 

Dear Teachers

Dear Mr Finlayson,

I know it was your first year teaching and you were sent up to the boonies – High Level, AB – cold and miserable with no friends. Thank you for seeing that there was a little girl in need of a hug and a laugh. Thank you for telling your grade two class “Kids, if you ever need to talk to someone you can talk to me.” Because I did. And you sat with me on a park bench and listened to me talk about my parents divorce. I don’t remember what you said, but I remember how you made me feel. Not alone. Valued.

You were the last teacher to tell me I was brilliant at math. But the first to split his pants in class.

Dear Ms Brathwaite,

I can remember your laugh and your crinkled brown face. Your dress you wore and how you smelled like sweat and baby powder. I was the whitest child in a new country, finding out that I was no longer the star pupil but actually a year or more behind in learning. Your hand on my shoulder as you explained that “naught” meant “zero” made me feel like you wouldn’t let me fail and I wasn’t stupid.

Dear Ms Carroll,

No teacher in their right mind would let their grade one student come home with them nowadays. I don’t remember why I did. But you had a beautiful home with huge sunflowers and your smile was just as bright and I remember you being the tallest woman I’d ever met. It’s no wonder I loved school when I had such a giant sunflower of a teacher to set me on the right path.

These are just a few of the teachers I can remember who made a difference in my life as a child. There were others, many others. I did “ok” in school despite my belief that I have a learning disability of some kind (or it’s just called being a scatterbrain full-time working mom now, I’m not sure).

As I watch my children make their way through school I see the entire system in a much different light. Things have changed. The hows and the whys of all these changes seem to be above my pay grade. The system needed to change as we learned more about educating (and protecting) our kids, but it comes with consequences.

Were teachers always this stressed or did I just not see it because I was a kid? Did so many kids fall through the cracks, or did I miss that because I wasn’t one of them?

What has NOT changed is that teaching is a profession I think one must be called to perform. To be a good teacher I think you must believe that it’s WHAT YOU DO. It’s WHO YOU ARE. I’m in a job where I feel that way about my profession … so that even the stressful days are just a drop in the bucket of a career filled with mostly good.

Teaching can’t be just a J-O-B, you know? I know a few teachers personally and I don’t want to speak for them, but I’ve never, ever gotten the impression that this was “just a job” to them. And as such, I have no doubt that they are good teachers.

(A post on what a ‘good’ teacher is and how it’s all about your perspective is for another day … You just have to visit RateMyTeachers.com to find every opinion you can imagine…)

But if there’s one thing I could tell every teacher called to teach, it’s this:

YOU REALLY, REALLY MATTER.

 

On the good days and the bad days, you matter to every kid in class.

You’re going to validate their beliefs about themselves every day. This could be the belief that they can succeed, or the belief that they are stupid, or the belief that they matter or they don’t.

Your smile may be the only smile that kid gets today.

You may be the only one telling that kid she’s going to be ok because other adults don’t have the courage.

The “good” kids in the class need you. The “bad” kids in the class need you. The “difficult” kids need you. The kids who just float under the radar need you.

The C-student needs you. The inattentive kid needs you.

They all need you to know that you matter to them even though they will likely never tell you.

It’s a tough job finding out what kids need to be successful and then teaching them –  I don’t know how you do it … and not all of your peers are as capable as you. Not all of them really understand how much they matter Every Single Day.

But maybe those teachers just don’t know … you really, really matter.

Fighting For Yourself

I was in the garden yesterday afternoon with my six-year old daughter and she stood from the middle of a big pile of soil and said “I need to go get gardening gloves, mommy.”

“No you don’t,” I admonished, “You need tougher hands.”

As she considered her dirty, sore hands, I considered what I’d just said to her.

IMG_2281

Why exactly had I reacted that way? It wasn’t in anger and I hadn’t made fun of her, I just stated something I thought was obvious. Tough, strong hands are good for a girl to have.

“Go ahead, find your gloves, sweetie,” I relented.

Up until that moment, I don’t think I’d really considered how differently I parent a boychild and a girlchild. Even before I had my daughter I stated I was terrified to bring a girl into this world. “You can teach a boy to respect girls … but it’s damn hard to teach a girl to respect herself!”

In a world where we still have not solved the problem of stupid gender stereotypes in advertising and the media … I still find the prospect of raising my daughter to be terrifying. I know that I cannot protect her from everything, I can’t shield her or prevent her from making poor choices once in awhile, so it seems my alternative has been to coach my daughter into Being Tough.

Because if you are tough – no one can hurt you. No one has to be your shield because you wear your own armor.

It’s why I say things like “Hey beautiful girl, look how strong you are!” or how my heart jumps with happiness when she says “let’s go exercise our legs mommy!” and how she knows the difference between a burpee and a push-up and a thruster.

Ah this beautiful, strong-willed, powerful little child of mine. I spend half the time thinking “Who is this child?” or “How have I created this?” and the other half saying “Hell yes, that is my daughter!”

I spent my teenage years feeling like I did not fit in anywhere. Not in my family, where I was the angry, explosive child. Not in school where I was so terrified of rejection that I didn’t try out for a team – I had already been told I was too fat or not good enough, why risk the rejection? (I made the swim team in high school but was so uncomfortable in my own body by then that I quit.)

I put on my armor where it was safe. I hid in the woods of school where I felt most vulnerable.

And now, without saying it, I am teaching her one lesson:

You have to know how to be tough and fight for yourself because there may be times you are the only one who will.

I was five or six years old when my parents left my brother and I to be babysat by a cousin. Oh I adored him. I remember being so excited because he was older and cool and let us do all sorts of crazy things … at one point he cranked Billy Idol’s White Wedding and we all raced around the house and jumped on the beds. Oh the thrill of hanging out with a cool kid.

And then it was time to go to bed – and he climbed in with me and tried to get me to touch him.

I said no and tried to sleep on the floor.

He laid behind me and tried to touch me, I resisted by curling into the tightest ball that I could but he was older and stronger and forced my arms behind me and my hand between his, now naked, legs. I kicked and screamed and fought like he was killing me. He pinned me. I fought. He covered my mouth. I bit.

At some point he gave up and I went to bed – he left my room and I can still see him silhouetted in the hallway light, looking nervous and afraid.

I had won.

But I’d also lost parts of myself.

The part that trusted others easily. The part that was able to give myself wholeheartedly with unreserved adoration and say “Hey! I like you! Be My Friend!”

It’s three decades since that day.

I still cannot stand White Wedding.

I still feel panic rise up if I’m overpowered or pinned.

I still have difficulties being a good friend because I’m afraid what my vulnerabilities will let them do.

But. However. Nevertheless. 

I have forgiven him and I am no longer angry. I’m simultaneously saddened by the event and …  aware of the positive aspects I chose to gleen from a very negative experience. It took a lot of time to mine the positive out of the negative, but I’ve chipped away at it and now I can see how it’s made me the parent I am today.

I can teach my daughter to be strong, tough, resilient … and I can encourage her to trust and be vulnerable. She doesn’t have to learn my lesson to benefit from the knowledge. I may slip up now and then … the older neighbour boy tried to kiss her and I had a momentary freak out … during which I taught her how to loudly say “NO!” … and to place an uppercut on the soft underside of his jaw. Sorry, Neighbour Boy, I am sure NO would suffice …

But I want her to know she’s more than capable of looking out for herself.

That it’s ok to be in the woods when you’re your own warrior.

That she can still trust others – because she trusts in herself first.

That vulnerability is actually incredibly courageous.

That she can have tough hands and a soft heart.

###

Where Were You When …

… the Newtown shootings happened?

I was not where I wanted to be … 3 hours away from my kids, working as a hockey trainer.

Immediately a feeling of panic set in as I realized what had happened. It was Friday and I wasn’t going to see my kids until Sunday.

But here I was, with a group of 19 teenage boys, watching over them as they played in a tournament in Medicine Hat. I wanted to be with my kids but I couldn’t leave and I knew there was no danger, it was just my knee jerk reaction to the shocking, terrible news. I called my kids and tried not to cry. I cried in the bathroom where no one could see. I cried into my pillow at the hotel after everyone had gone to bed and I’d walked the halls to make sure.

Lunch with the boys. Friday afternoon.

When I regained my composure I realized the position I was in.

Here were 19 boys (granted, at 16 & 17 they are hardly helpless kids) who I had a role in protecting. Their parents sent them out the door that morning, too, and were probably thinking the same things I was thinking about my own kids.

So I did the only thing I could think to do – I focused on the boys. For this weekend, they were my kids.

It’s pretty easy when they are so funny and awesome.

It’s pretty easy when all you have to do is dodge a few pucks and sticks on the bench.

It’s pretty easy when you win the whole tournament.

Medicine Hat 2012 AA Midget Tournament Champions
NWCAA AA Midget Stamps

It’s pretty easy when you know for certain your kids are safe with your family (my daughter with my mom, my son with his dad).

I’m back home now – got home in time to go skate for an hour at the ODR (that’s outdoor rink for you non-hockey folks). We had hot chocolate and baths and I prayed with my kids and sang them to sleep. And I tried not to cry. I wasn’t very successful.

“I’m not trying to humiliate you, mom, but I really like to deke you.” – my son, the comedian.

We are in the aftermath now. I’ve stayed away from the news, stayed off of most social media. I hide overtly opinionated stories and remind myself people express grief in different ways: some attack, some retreat, some opine, some listen.

For me, I think about what it’s like when I’m on the bench, watching the team play a great game of hockey … and if we happen to be down I think “this other team is under the false impression they are winning … they are not”.

That’s right, I think that every single time. Even when the clock runs out and it says we lost.

Did you see my boys’ efforts? Did you see that shit? This is not a loss.

Because it’s not the score, it’s not the measurable amount of loss … it’s not the strong overpowering the weak or body counts or penalty minutes or any kind of measurable number that tells you the real story.

There is nothing quantifiable in true loss or true love. We can’t measure it or call it a fact. We can’t tally it. We can’t fill out a score sheet on good versus evil.

And that’s why I know … Despite all evidence to the contrary … Love is winning

 

A Catalogue of Pain

When a friend recently posted a picture of her injury, it got me thinking about the large database of injury-related pictures I have … not because I’m an EMT (it would violate my code of ethics to take a picture of a patient, I’ve even had them offer to send me the picture with their own phone, but I decline), but because sometimes my family’s first reaction to an injury is “wait, lemme get my camera”. My mom used to do it … and I do it. But these days I’m more apt to share it with everyone on my Facebook page.

Why?

Why do we feel the need to catalogue our pain?

Fell off the kitchen chair at gramma’s.
Right in front of me.

Do we need sympathy?

Stupid Stupid Stupid.
My first summer with red hair and fair skin or what?

Do we just want to feel better?

Attack by “friendly” neighbourhood cat.
Left scars.

Do we need to know others make stupid mistakes, too?

Never try fast, high-impact wheelchair sports your first day in a wheelchair.

Does it bring our pain closer to the forefront so it doesn’t stay buried?

Army feet. Not mine.
Good thing she was rooming with two medics.
“Uh, yeah, it looks broken.”

When we share, do we excise the pain like a tumor?

How exactly does one injure one’s self gardening?

Does it make us feel more human, more fallible, more real?

Head + Window Sill = Glue

Do we need others to know we’re clumsy?

Head + Door = Glue

Is everyone this clumsy?

Head + Round Coffee Table = Stitches

Or does everyone feel like a bad parent when their kid gets hurt?

A horse used me as a springboard.
It hurt.
I learned not to fall off.

Can we protect our kids from every injury?

Teaching my son to ride and *I* get hurt.

Or can we just hope to learn from them?

What do you think?

Missing

An odd dynamic these days. My family is all over the place. My son is headed to Disneyland with his dad, my daughter to Indiana with her dad, and I’m in training. The days are long and I don’t see my kids as much as I’d like. In fact, I’m really hoping to make it home to see my son before he goes to Disneyland because it will be a week before I see him again. My daughter is already away and I’ll go almost 10 days without her smiling face.

But knowing that they are with their dads is a good, good thing. Sure I miss them, sure *I* would like to be with them, and I want them to miss me… but there is something sweet and awesome about kid and dad time.

For my daughter it’s like she has her own favourite play-toy when she’s with her dad. He’s firmly wrapped around her finger. And now she’s with her cousin in Indiana … and she didn’t want to talk on the phone with me, she was having too much fun playing!

For my son, there is no one cooler than his dad, the sun rises and sets on him.

If I let myself, I can give into a small sad part of me that wants to be the favourite parent all the time. It sucks that for both of them I’m the main disciplinarian, the rule creator, the rule nazi, the grounder and the Enforcer. Whether by circumstances or personality, the dads aren’t the main enforcers. Not that they can’t or won’t, it just usually falls to me.

But I don’t give into that.

Instead I celebrate the awesomeness of my kids’ relationships with their dads. Especially with my son – it’s not every divorced family that has what we have. I can trust my ex to leave the country with my son when I know other moms who wouldn’t even consider that possibility, even for Disneyland.

I admit some trepidation as both my kids head to the US with their dads, but not about safety or happiness… but about those logistics I usually take care of. Do they have metal in their pockets to set off scanners, do they have enough snacks for the flight, games to entertain, gum for take off?

I’m good at this… my daughter had 18 flights under her belt before she was 18 months old. I got this.

Except for the one tiny thing I forgot last week.

I forgot to renew my daughter’s passport.

Yeah. Whoops.

By some miracle, my husband was able to head to the US Consulate and renew it on the day of the flight. I may never recover from the total shock of my organizational failure.

But while my kids are busy not missing me, I’m left missing them.

And my husband.

And my routine.

I did not realize how difficult it is to be all on my own.

No one else to look out for but myself.

It’s not nearly as fun as I think it will be when I’m in the midst of family drama and angst… when I wish for a moment alone. When I want to wring necks and banish kids to their room and just have a tidy room stay tidy for more than a half-second. When I fret because I didn’t change careers before my kids so now I worry I’m missing the boat and things are more difficult than they should be.

It’s good to have times like this – by myself – to remember what I am really missing.

I am a Little Warrior

Here in Canada recently there was a lot of hoopla in the news about Graham James. He was a hockey coach in the 70s and 80s who ritually abused boy and was recently sentenced to two years in jail – a pitiful, incomprehensible sentence considering the suspected vastness of his crimes (he’d served 3.5 years on a previous charge, and – barf – had been given a pardon!). One of the most famous of his victims was Theoren Fleury. He used to be one of my most favourite hockey players from back in the day. I can remember when I first heard that he’d been abused by Graham James… I couldn’t figure out at the time how he’d been so successful, because surely that kind of abuse would have done someone in. Wrecked them.

It was the first time I learned what coping mechanism were. How damaged people did not always appear as damaged people. If you read Theo’s book Playing With Fire you can read all about the destructive behaviours he engaged in, all in an attempt to fill up the hole created by Graham James.

I was molested as a child on a few different occasions, by a former family member and a babysitter, both time so brief I often wonder if I can call it a molestation but my body has memories that still come back, so I know it still affects me. Nothing even close to what Theo (and other boys) experienced, not even in the same galaxy. You can read Theo’s victim impact statement here.

M & Theoren Fleury

I had recently attended a hockey event and cajoled my shy son into getting his picture taken with Theo (for the record, I’m not sure if he likes to be called Theo or Theoren … I grew up here in the 80s, I call him Theo.) because he was my favourite hockey player…and one of the few I can recognize off the ice. We’ll just gloss over the part of this story where I may have called him short. I really do have foot-in-mouth disease. (He’s 5’6 and my son is very small for his age… I thought it was relevant!)

What I wanted to say was “thank you” for being so brave and speaking up. I understand that he didn’t have much choice but to face his demons, but it still takes amazing courage.

For the last few years I had heard about an organization called Little Warriors. It’s an organization that trains adults to recognize the possibility of childhood sexual abuse. Or, as they say much better:

Little Warriors is a charitable organization with a national focus that educates adults about how to help prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Little Warriors also provides information about the prevalence and frequency of child sexual abuse and information about healing and support resources.

It’s a good organization.

I had wanted to engage in some training for a while but had just not done it. So when a spot became available right in my neighbourhood this month, I jumped at it. I’m now what they call a Steward of Children.

I’d love to tell you all about the training they provide, but I could not do it justice. It only takes a morning or an afternoon, but it’s a very tough few hours. You have to really face things you don’t necessarily want to.

But that’s where the courage to be a Warrior comes in.

As a society, we know (in theory) that these things happen. Daily. Hourly. But we gloss it over and assume someone else is looking out for those kids being abused. We self-righteously point fingers at the parents, THEY should have known. THEY should have done something, THEY were supposed to be looking out for their kid.

Well THEY didn’t realize that someone was making their child PREY. And that person’s sole purpose was to confuse, distract and manipulate the parents, to gain access to their child. What THEY didn’t realize was that a child who is molested is least likely to tell their parents because the predator has positioned himself between them. What THEY didn’t realize was once a child is targeted, the grooming can take years. That’s YEARS where nothing happens and a form of trust is built between parents, child and predator.

As a society, we tend to see the dregs of society from the view straight down the ridge of our first-world noses. Prostitutes. Drug addicts. It’s all their fault, they made bad choices, they shouldn’t come in contact with our family. Imagine… seeing your child talking with a drug addict? A prostitute? Your heart would leap into your throat, you’d grab your kid’s hand and rush away. Or maybe you’d just grab their hand and smile and nod because it would be unchristian to be so OVERTLY disdainful.

Did you know that 76% of prostitutes were victims of childhood sexual abuse? Would you shun a six-year old girl being ritually abused by a predator? No, I don’t think you would. That prostitute IS that six-year old girl.

Or, more precisely, that six-year old girl on the playground at school that you watch your kid play with before the bell rings … that girl will be that prostitute.

Unless she has a warrior.

The kid who dropped out of school because of drugs? Kicked out for having pot in his locker? Dumbass, right?

70% of victims report excessive drug and alcohol use. That kid isn’t getting high to be cool, he’s getting high to get high enough away from himself that he can forget how damaged he is.

He needs a warrior.

I knew this training was important for me as my new life as an EMT, hockey mom, hockey trainer, volunteer, etc… means I am in close proximity to kids of all ages. From the kindergarteners in my daughter’s class, to the teenagers on my midget hockey team. I’m ready to be a warrior for any of them.

How about you?

I know you feel ready, even without the training you think you are ready.

Trust me, you need the training.

You wouldn’t run a marathon without first training. You wouldn’t play a hockey tournament without first training. You wouldn’t try to undertake your profession without training.

And a child’s well-being. His or her soul, feelings of worth, innocence, and future are worth first training.

Look for training in your area by clicking here.

Or, if you are in Calgary, drop me a line because I’m going to be hosting Stewards training this spring.

 

Fear-Based Parenting

There was a time in my life when parenting was EASY. There was nothing I couldn’t do. That time was 1977-2001… also known as BEFORE I ACTUALLY HAD CHILDREN.

I could have told you everything parents did wrong and what the right choice would be. I could have fully explained proper discipline, correct bedtime routines and what constitutes a healthy meal.

Then of course I had kids.

This week there is one thing running through my head.

“This is haaaaard.”

But even now, I look at other parents and think that perhaps they have it easier. Thankfully most of my closest friends are parents and they are there to hold my proverbial hair back while I purge all the complaints and whines of the day.

You can tell me parenting isn’t rocket science, but I could probably find you a rocket scientist that’s as confused about it as I am. He or she is probably wondering how they can figure out the vector something something of a rocket leaving orbit something something… but can’t get their kid potty trained.

I sit down defeated some days and wonder how I can learn to read an ECG but can’t figure out the hockey championship schedule for minor hockey.

There are some things that parents just can’t do. For example,  I can hold my son accountable for his chores and homework and how he treats other people. But I can’t *make* him behave at school. It doesn’t matter what treat I dangle in front of him, he still makes some poor choices. And in some cases, it makes things worse because he thinks “not only have I lost my footing here at school, but now life at home is going to be horrible” because of whatever privilege he imagines he’s just lost.

And I sit down, head in hands and try to remember: How does the wise man learn to make good choices? By making bad choices.

And it doesn’t just work for the kids, that’s kind of how parenting works, too.

How do I know that yelling at my kids doesn’t work? I’ve yelled at them, and it didn’t work.

I think… I think that perhaps you have to learn to NOT take things personally with kids. Which is hard, because what is more personal than your children??

Case in point: yesterday I had a fever, was exhausted after three days of 12 hour night shifts, and I took my son to his hockey game. I cheered, I encouraged, I tried to keep his spirits up after a loss. It seemed to be going well.

But our stumbling block was my lack of cash and his deep, essential need to have some ice cream from a specific ice cream machine in the rink. And I said no.

The pouting began.

And the hardest thing in the world at that moment was to control my temper.

What I wanted to say was “I’m your sick, tired, overworked mom and I’m trying my best and have gotten you to hockey, I make sure you get to every hockey game and practice and organize everything I can do to get you to where you need to go…. and yet I’m currently seen as a total failure by you because I can’t make ice cream come out of this machine with $3.75.”

What I did was tell him to get in the van and stop pouting. And then I cried. Which probably freaked him out a little bit more than the previous paragraph would have. But it was an honest emotion.

The paragraph I wanted to say was not an honest emotion. It was a list of complaints detailing why he was wrong and why I was right. How well does that every work when you are in conflict with someone?

Oh, I’m upset with you and so to prove how this is your fault and not mine, I’m going to list my awesomeness and then list your failures. Not a good tactic at any time.

And yet I think parents do this – I know I have in the past.

We react in anger. And anger is just a mask for a different emotion, usually fear.

In this case, I was sad that I couldn’t do everything for him and fearful that he would see me as a failure because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) buy him the ice cream. The little voice in the back of my head was saying “I bet his dad would buy it for him”. And the fear that being the parent in charge of all the discipline and all the instruction and all the day-to-day worries will result in him overlooking the good things I do… that fear was overwhelming.

I’m done with fear-based parenting. A parent who parents out of fear is an angry parent.

I don’t want to be that parent.

But Lord, it’s haaaaard.

It’s not that I WOULD… but I COULD.

I once read a blog post that started with the statement,”I am an extreme mom”, and it took me a few paragraphs in before I realized she meant “I’m a better mom than you”. The gist of her point was that because she spent almost every waking minute with her baby and enjoyed each moment, she was a better mom, a more extreme mom… like, Ultra Mom. Or Mega Mom. She’s the Venti Mom to my Grande Mom.

I think my response was something along the lines of “um… you have a baby. Sooooo come back when your kid actually, you know, acts like a kid”.

Because at some point, your kid is going to misbehave and actually make you kind of angry.

How extreme is it to be screaming into a pillow and locking yourself in the bathroom for a little r&r?

I think maybe your extreme and mine? They aren’t really the same.

Many people have seen the “creative” way one dad punished his daughter for her disrespectful Facebook post. Here’s the Cole’s Note’s version: he said if she ever repeated a previous egregious Facebook posting error of criticizing her parents … he would put a bullet through her computer. She did. So he did.

His logic was that he was following through with what he said he would do.

Some say he’s being a bully, some say he’s hilarious. Some wish they had the cojones, some think the girl should be taken away from the crazy gun-totin’ Republican. (Cause he has to be a Republican to own a gun, right? And have a drawl. And be an anal disciplinarian. Right? I mean why couldn’t some really cool Canadian do this, eh?)

I think he’s just another example of extreme parenting. And at some point in our parenting career we all have moments of extreme parenting.

“If you ever…”

“I will never…”

“.. grounded until college!”

“… over my dead body!”

“… it will be taken away forever!”

I am pretty sure more than one of these has left my lips over my 10+ year parenting marathon. In fact just this morning I wa threatening to withhold something from my son that I really, really didn’t want to take away from him. As soon as the words were spoken I cringed. I did NOT want to follow through. And that’s the thing with using threats to elicit compliance from your kids. Either they will work or you will have to follow through. And they won’t always work.

In fact, if you were ever a kid like me growing up, you would have pushed past any limit your parents set down just to prove that you knew exactly how to play brinksmanship and you were going to WIN. Yes, it was about WINNING.

I was like the Charlie Sheen of teenagers. Without the drugs.

Or the hookers.

Or, really, the illegal behaviour.

But I had extra helpings of attitude and stubbornness.

Anyway, I am certain my children are my mother’s payback. And the proper discipline of said children is something that I may never, ever WIN at. Because it’s damn hard and frustrating and there are days when I could go off the deep end and shoot a computer. Or hockey bag. Or beloved stuffie.

But we do have a few rules regarding discipline in our house:

1. No punishment is valid if handed out in anger.

2. Parents should apologize when wrong.

It would be wonderful if these two rules prevented poor parenting behaviour, but they don’t. Just like rules for behaviour don’t prevent misbehaviour. They just help get back on track when things have gone off the rails. Before these two rules were in place, I felt like such a parenting failure when I’d have to half-heartedly enforce some punishment I felt bad for doling out in the first place. Because if I’d been calm and had my wits about me, I would have done something a little smarter and more effective.

The epilogue of the gun-toting father is kind of a funny one.

Truthfully though the social attention has helped her and I both deal with it. We had our discussion about it after she returned home from school. We set the ground rules for her punishment, and then I let her read some of the comments on Facebook with me at my computer. At first it was upsetting. Then as we read it became less so, eventually funny to both of us.

At the end, she was amazed that other people had such amazingly strong reactions. Some said she’d grow up to be a stripper. Others that she’d get pregnant and become drug addicted because of the emotional damage. She actually asked me to go on Facebook and ask if there was anything else the victim of a laptop-homicide could do besides stripping because all the posts seem to mention that particular job and she wasn’t so keen on that one.

The fact that they were able to sit down and have a conversation and deal with the aftermath of misbehaviour-punishment-reaction is very hopeful. It’s hard to judge a parent-child relationship from a brief moment in time when you see it in real life, nevermind out there on the interwebs.

But when you think about it, the dad went out into a field and shot (oh, bad pun) a video to show her (and the world, apparently) of the punishment. Can you imagine the reaction if he’d drug his daughter out there with him… and the laptop… and the gun… and let this all play out in real time? With emotions high and possible anger waiting to erupt?

That would have been a recipe for disaster. And the more I think about this dad’s response, the more I see it as calm and calculating.

I’m still not employing the use of any type of firearm in my parenting arsenal.

And I’m trained on the C-7, so let’s be clear that I could handle one.

And it would have been a whole lot more impressive than an ittybitty handgun.

gun-totin' mama

gun-totin' mamawww.